By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- When you think of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, you most likely think of soldiers returning from war, but new moms are very likely to suffer from this disorder.
Unlike other post-partum illnesses, PTSD is triggered when a mother perceives that her life or her child's life is in danger.
"The core of their perception of a traumatic childbirth is that during labor and delivery they feel a lack of control of events," Dr. Cheryl Beck said.
Beck has been studying birth trauma for 25 years. She was recently involved in a study that suggests up to nine percent of mothers in the United States are experiencing this disorder. Beck said many times medical charts will indicate a completely "normal" birth process.
"A traumatic childbirth is in the eye of the beholder, so that all that matters is the perception of the woman," Beck said.
There are distinct warning signs that a mother has developed PTSD. Experts say the symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, irritability and avoidance.
"So the person, in this case the woman, is avoiding any memories or any triggers of the trauma, whether it be the hospital, the doctors and sometimes even the baby," Dr. Sue Verma with the Psychiatric Association said.
Bonnie Bellah, the state coordinator for the Oklahoma Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition is planning a summer conference to create awareness and understanding for this disorder.
"There are many women in Oklahoma who are experiencing a whole range of adjustment problems after they deliver their babies. We lack enough resources in the state of Oklahoma to truly care for these women," Bellah said.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, some mothers may have thoughts of hurting themselves or their baby, or may have a tough time bonding since the baby may be a constant reminder of the trauma.
Advice for suffering mothers:
1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Speak with someone you trust as soon as possible.
2. Speak with your healthcare provider about medications which may be helpful.
3. Ask your provider, clergyman, case manager, or someone you trust for a referral to a therapist or counselor.
4. Ask a family member or a friend to help you with childcare and housework until you feel better.
5. Rest as much as you can, and be very careful to eat a well-balanced diet so that your body and mind can heal.
6. Educate yourself about postpartum health and resources by going to the library or by going to the Postpartum Support International website.
7. Try to find other mothers with children the same age as your child. Everyone needs friends, especially parents.
8. Keep up your hopes! You will get better.
9. Call the PSI Postpartum Depression Helpline: 1-800-944-4PPD