Addressing birth trauma in second pregnancy

I’m newly pregnant with my second child and am curious if any mothers out there have tips for addressing birth trauma during a second pregnancy.

I gave birth to my first daughter 4 years ago and labor & delivery did not go very smoothly for us. I think I recovered fairly well from it in the months after birth and I haven’t noticed any long term effects. However now that I’m pregnant again, I am finding myself digging up those memories and becoming more and more anxious about the birth itself. I can only assume this anxiety will keep growing as my due date approaches and would like to address it early so that I can go into this next birth feeling calm and confident. 

Would love to hear from any moms who have dealt with this and what helped you:

  • Are there therapists that specialize in this area?
  • What about doulas? (I interviewed a few doulas during my first pregnancy but ultimately didn’t click with anyone. Would be open to working with one if I found the right fit.)
  • Are there techniques like hypnobirthing that might be helpful?
  • Books or other resources I may not be thinking of?

Thanks in advance.

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So sorry to hear your first birth didn’t go well. I also had a rough first birth. I don’t have a specific therapist to recommend, but I really recommend the technique of EMDR in therapy. It definitely helped me work through a lot of the trauma.

Hi, so sorry to hear of your challenging first birth and the anxiety you’re experiencing as your second approaches. I had a semi-traumatic birth experience a few years ago and worked with therapist/psychologist Maria St. John to process and heal from it, and she was amazingly supportive and very experienced in pregnancy/postpartum/mothering-related challenges. She’s based in Oakland and doing mainly Telehealth now. Here’s her website: mariaseymourstjohn.com

Feel free to message me if you have any questions. Good luck!

Hello,

I had a very similar situation as you (but my boys were born two years apart). My first delivery (in NYC) was very "medicalized" and ended up with a lot of interventions from my very cold and uncaring OB; the whole experience was somewhat traumatic. Halfway through my second pregnancy I saw that the writing was on the wall that I was heading towards similar treatment (albeit with a different medical practice), and I switched to a very old-school "midwife." The experience was night and day -- she was wonderfully hands-off and communicated in every way through her words and behavior before, during, and after delivery that my body knew exactly what to do. My main memory is of her quietly knitting in a corner while I labored (but she was 100% competent and on top of things! She just trusted the process). I had a natural, beautiful delivery that was a redemptive and empowering experience! I also HIGHLY. recommend finding a birth doula to work with you. My amazing doula was a true partner through an intense labor and delivery, and I couldn't have done it without her. Good luck to you; I hope that your second delivery is a good one. As many people will likely tell you, your body does remember what to do with a second birth. 

I am sorry to hear that you experienced a challenging birth and I think it’s great that you are seeking help to process it. I hope you find support and are able to give birth in the way you wish to! My cousin is therapist a therapist but also has a podcast and lots of resources on her website.

https://www.drcassidymft.com/services

Her podcast is called Holding Space but it looks like she was interviewed on this one about birth trauma as well, although I haven’t listened to it:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/talking-about-birth-trauma-with-dr...

Hi!

I am a doula, and a mother of two.  The birth of my first was very traumatic and so I a few things I can recommend from personal experience, but also things that I share with my client are:

Breathwork and meditation practice - building a safe place in your mind that you can go if/when you start to feel the trauma response during labor.  Using breath is a great way to stay connected to your body and something I recommend practicing daily.  It was hugely helpful to me during labor.

Fear release - either ritual of writing down your fears and burning the paper, or speaking your fears aloud and letting them move away from you. 

100% hire a doula.  Having a plan to address trauma as it comes up is one thing, having someone there with you to help you put that plan into action while you are in the throws of labor is super helpful.  I don't know what I would have done without my doula in the weeks leading up to labor, and in my labor.  I would be happy to speak with you, and I can refer you to some other doulas if I am not the right fit for you.

EMDR therapy has been said to be extremely helpful.

Post Partum Support International is also a really great resource: https://psichapters.com/ca/

Wishing you all the best! 

I had a traumatic first birth and did need to address it during my second. I also had post-partum anxiety after my first and so knew that I needed to find a counselor to build a relationship with ahead of the birth. Unfortunately, I was on the East Coast and so my specific person would not be very helpful. She did specialize in birth related things and there's counselors out there that do. I think anyone who focuses on trauma would help. I also found a cognitive-behavioral approach the most helpful for me, but know not everyone does.

Other things that helped me: instead of a hospital birth I had a birth center birth. That particular change might not be possible for you, but any change of venue might help if you had previously planned on giving birth at the same place. I did hire a doula but that was mostly because we thought we were having an early birth and would end up in the hospital. I also had a friend who had had a traumatic birth experience and talked to her about it. Finding peer support from friends our a support group might be helpful.

I had a very similar experience with my first birth. Even going into the building where my first was born (and where I ended up having my 2nd) would make my heart race, so I knew needed some help when I got pregnant with my 2nd. I worked with Rachel Yellin both with her audio recorded pre/during/post-birth guided meditations, and I did a 5 session depth practice with her (https://rachelyellin.com/coaching-and-depth-hypnosis-therapy/depth-hypno...) and it was immensely helpful. 

I also did Kari Marble's prenatal yoga and honestly, that helped a lot as well. She has zoom offerings (https://www.welcomeom.com/prenatal-yoga.html). 

Hope that helps even a little bit. 

I have not personally worked with this person but she seems really incredible. I love the work she is doing with postpartum groups. This person seems really amazing and perhaps a great resource - Robyn Alagona Cutler, LMFT in Rockridge https://www.alagonamft.com/prenatalpostpartum

There must be doulas that focus on this but I don't know any off the top of my head. Good luck I hope you find really good support!

I wish I had advice for you…just empathy. I also had a very traumatic birth with my daughter and am now going through IVF to hopefully get pregnant soon. I know I will be full of anxiety so I would love to know if you get any helpful tips/advice! 

I would highly recommend my therapist, Molly Nourmand. She specializes in postpartum transitions, including birth trauma, and I’ve found her to be an invaluable support during the prenatal and postpartum periods.

https://www.mollynourmand.com

Dear Mama, Having been in your shoes, I can 100% recommend that you check out a type of therapy called EMDR. It helps people to address and process both trauma and Trauma. I've been working with Dr. Christina Narensky for nearly 2 years now (on issues beyond the partial placental abruption I experienced with my first birth) and would recommend her to anyone. She sees patients in person, in Alameda, or does tele-health as well. Reach her at dr [dot] christinanarensky [at] gmail [dot] com. Wishing you success and also a smooth 2nd birth!

Highly recommend Mindfulness In Labor — you can read the book (Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke) or do a training or both. https://www.mindfulbirthing.org

Also highly recommend a therapist who specializes in perinatal stuff. Michaela Wapman is amazing. Michelle Cilia is also really good. You can also search the therapist directory at psychologytoday.com and filter for pregnancy/prenatal/postpartum.  
 

The app “The Tapping Solution” is also fantastic. It’s guided meditation with light tapping (based in acupressure). They have guided meditations geared towards anxiety and towards preparing for motherhood.

Good luck — and good on you for trying to get ahead of it early. That will help so so much.

I don't have any resources but I am in the same boat so just sharing that I am looking for similar resources (not pregnant with second yet but planning on it soon). 

Someone recommended thebirthtrauma_mama on instagram to me but I felt a bit overwhelmed by all the stories there. And then, my doula from my first recommended this woman http://www.birthspiritualityandhealing.com/ but I haven't reached out yet and not sure if it's for me!

Good luck - will follow this post to see what what others say!

Hello, 

Sorry to hear you had such a challenging labor & delivery. I can relate!

Two answers to your question:

  • I was incredibly impressed with Gena McCarthy (genamccarthy3 [at] gmail.com) who specializes specifically in birth trauma. I worked with her for 1-2 months, and she was really helpful in enabling me to work through some of my birth trauma. I imagine it'll be over zoom, but that was effective for me.
  • I also really liked the book Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardake when it come to prepping for birth. It's mostly about how you can use meditation and a mindfulness practice in labor. They also do a birth class you can consider, which I didn't do but have heard good things about.

Best of luck!

I want to second recommendations for EMDR. It really helped me. I went from being unable to talk about the birth without breaking down in tears, "OK, that happened. I'm fine now" in the matter of 2 sessions of EMDR (and some prep sessions to tease out how exactly to approach). It is effective and efficient: you won't be paying for years of therapy without necessarily feeling better. 

Congratulations on second pregnancy. I was in similar state (lots of anxiety) and used Rachel Yellin and a birth doula. I can’t recommend Meleah enough as a birth doula. She made my experience soo much better leading up to and on the day and has been a wonderful resource postpartum as well. I just kept repeating during my labor “this is so much better than the last time”. Im so glad I spent the money. I didnt have a birth doula for my first birth. You can reach her at meleah [at] innerstrengthbirth.com
 

I had a medically (and emotionally) traumatic first pregnancy and cannot recommend enough seeing a therapist to help shift your mindset from "constant panic!! Everything is going wrong!!" to "I am in distress, but not danger". I have been seeing Dr. Donna Rothert (https://donnarothert.com/) since my first pregnancy 3.5 years ago and she has been SO helpful in addressing all fears related to traumatic pregnancies. She helped me after the birth of my first child and through the birth of my second child this past summer. I hope you have a smoother go with L&D this time around! 

I know what a complicated experience a second pregnancy after a traumatic birth can be, so I wanted to start by acknowledging your bravery for doing it all again. My first birth was an emergency c-section at 30 weeks without the opportunity to labor and after a week hospitalization. I'm not sure if you wrote a birth plan for your first or if you're planning to for your second. I used an introduction/background section of the birth plan as place to tactfully name what I felt occurred in my first birth, including ways in which the care I received contributed to trauma (felt inhumane, not consensual, poor communication). It does seem that nurses, residents and midwives are directed to read a birth plan upon entering the patient's room (at least at Kaiser Oakland), and I watched people read my first person experience as they entered my room at shift changes or to check on my status. Requests in the rest of the plan were connected to the prior experience. Most acknowledged the previous experience outright, and that was affirming for me. If of interest, I'm happy to email you my birth plan.

I also recommend EMDR. It completely changed my life, my relationship to my birth and my relationship with my child. I worked with Gena McCarthy and have extremely high praise for her. It's a bit pricey but worth every penny. Also, fair warning, it is intense. I had to go back and relive my birth so that I could heal through it. Again, it was totally lifechanging. http://www.birthspiritualityandhealing.com/healing-birth-services.html

I wish you all the best in your journey and hope you find some peace.

I can relate very much to your post, and I highly recommend EMDR.  I received EMDR therapy in last trimester (right) before birth of my 2nd child, and it was an amazing gift to myself and my family.  I feel that the EMDR treatment and beautiful birth of my second, was an experience I never could have imagined after birth of my first.  Best wishes to you and your family! 

My first birth was somewhat traumatic in that it took 4 days, many interventions, very inadequate information and choices given by the L&D team. I did not have a doula during my first birth, had planned on one during my second birth but had my baby at the start of the pandemic and only 1 person (my partner) was allowed in the delivery room. My second birth also took several days and needed similar interventions but the whole experience was very different from the first time around and healing of some sorts. What made the biggest difference to me was going into my second labour informed, with clear preferences, and as an advocate for myself. I now knew what labor was like to some extent, I took a birth preparation course with a midwife, and I learned some hypno birthing techniques (highly recommend). I did not have midwife-led care at my delivery but asked to speak to the midwife on staff a few times to get her input when decisions had to be made. I also consulted with the L&D nurses, to get a wider spectrum of opinions than just the - in my case - very medial driven resident/OBGYN view. I asked for more information, asked for the risks that any intervention might bring and especially what would be the next step if an intervention fails. I gave myself time to make decisions instead of letting Drs rush me into decisions. E.g. the resident wanted to break my water to move things along, I declined and asked for more time, eventually my water broke on its own and it was a much more pleasant process. From her point of view, the goal was just 'get the baby out and get it done' as I was already in L&D and laboring. For me it was not just about getting the baby out, but having a good and less painful experience, I did not want to have to labor with broken water for a long time. So, take all the support you can get and go into it as an advocate for yourself and your needs and know that the second time does not have to be the same, but can be a much different and better experience. 

I am sorry to hear of your traumatic birthing experience. I myself had a traumatic 2nd birth experience, of course during covid in 2020 when I could only have one support person and could not have my laboring plans basically. Going into my third pregnancy I had a lot of anxiety, and I made a conscious effort by the third trimester to really shift my mindset and prepare myself and my husband for a successful and satisfying labor. I highly recommend journaling, talking it out, and doing some mindfulness/ affirmations as your daily exercise in helping shift your mindset. This third time around I hired a doula and had a very satisfying labor last week! I absolutely think all of my planning, keeping a positive mindset and visualizing how I wanted my labor to be really helped prepare me. 
 

I highly recommend my doula Brijett, even if you don’t use her as your doula, she can help with creating a birth plan, mindfulness and pregnancy affirmations etc. She has such a calm presence and was such a gem to have during labor! I wish you the best. 
 

here is her website:

https://sites.google.com/view/sfbirthservices/home