At the birth of a baby, many mothers feel happy, grateful, and empowered to bring their children into the world.
However, for many women, the postpartum period can be a difficult experience, full of fears, guilt, negative feelings that affect their emotional and social relationships, breastfeeding and even bonding with their baby. This is what we call post-partum depression (PPD).
In this article we will see what happens when with the birth of a baby the anticipated and idealized illusion of being a mother does not arrive , but sensations linked to the discomfort.
The key moments of birth
Pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium are moments of special vulnerability for women , where the person is more sensitive and there may be personal or contextual factors that may be affecting the bond generated between mother and baby. The beginning of the bond with our baby may be altered at different times.
1. During pregnancy
Bonding with the baby starts in the uterus , and the fetus perceives all the emotions that its mother is feeling. If the mother’s life history has been complex, the hormonal process that develops in pregnancy gives rise to a period of psychic transparency (Bydlowski, 2007), where the woman feels the need to review and repair her history, especially the bond with her mother, in order to begin to create the emotional connection with her baby.
If there are unresolved conflicts or broken attachments in the mother’s story , it is more likely that the emotional bond can be affected in a negative way. Therefore, pregnancy is a good time to be able to work on and repair our attachment history.
2. Motherhood and fatherhood
This phase begins to develop from the moment you dream of your son or daughter’s arrival, and until he or she arrives, many things can happen.
A mother does not emerge from loneliness and isolation; is the result of a family, bonding, social, economic, technological context . Biology also plays a leading role, and to carry out motherhood, support is needed, to generate the conditions for a healthy gestation. In this process, not only the mother and her family count, but society as a whole.
The fact that a natural or highly medicalized and intervened birth occurs, that there are medical complications or that the woman has not felt safe in that situation, may result in the emotional connection with our baby not being as expected .
Physical and emotional separations between mother and newborn, or medical interventions on the baby or mother, among other issues, can also delay strong emotional bonding.
5. The puerperium
The lack of support and care from the partner and the environment, problems or illnesses in the mother’s recovery, or stress, generate difficulties in the mother-baby connection .
When the illusion of motherhood does not come
If the gestation has gone well and the birth has been respectful of the mother and child, the woman will feel empowered; the hormones and emotional changes encourage this, giving her an internal and external strength along with a connection, not only with the baby, but also with herself. The mammal biological instinct directs maternal behaviour and predisposes the mother to perform certain actions related to a good development of motherhood.
However, if she has not been able to take control of her birth, her body, the process, she tends to feel a sense of disconcert and helplessness, which leads her to lose her self-confidence. It is as if something has been stolen from her that she is not aware of in her way of experiencing motherhood.
There are different variables that can result in mothers not feeling that torrent of love that they “should” feel , and that after that comes the feeling of guilt and discomfort with themselves.
It is very common to experience feelings of sadness, irritability, the desire to cry after childbirth , due to fatigue and hormonal change. This period is called “Baby Blues” and 80% of women suffer from it. With the care of the people around the mother and baby , the necessary rest and a lot of emotional support, these symptoms disappear in a few days.
However, if this does not happen and the discomfort continues, affecting the daily life of the mother and the baby, we may be talking about post-partum depression . In these cases, we at Vitaliza recommend professional accompaniment.
PTSD associated with pregnancy or birth
It is also important to see a professional if during the process of delivery or postpartum the mother has the experience that at some point her life or that of her baby has been in serious danger; this may generate intense fear or despair, leading to the development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) .
This fact can occur between 2 and 6% of women who give birth, and 30% usually generate some symptoms of this disorder, persisting for a long time, even years, if not treated properly.
Among the main triggers of this alteration are the perception of negligence or malpractice during or after childbirth or high obstetric interventionism (use of instruments during childbirth, medicalization, urgent cesarean sections, etc.) where the woman feels a loss of control or excessive pain for a prolonged period of time.
The symptoms that accompany a traumatic birth are usually
- Constantly relive the birth or the most stressful situations of the process.
- Feeling disconnected or detached from reality and your baby
- Irritability and hyper-excitability with their environment and health professionals.
- Affecting the bond with your baby.
- I reject sexuality and the desire to be a mother again.
What to do?
In cases of PTSD it is recommended to encourage women to express their feelings in self-help groups or with professionals . EMDR Therapy, together with regulatory and relaxation strategies such as Neurofeedback, are effective treatments for PTSD after a complicated birth.
Bringing a baby into the world is one of the vital events with the greatest emotional and physical impact on a woman, so it is very important to accompany and care for both her and the baby. This help should combine the human factor provided by the loved ones, and professional assistance from experts in psychotherapy.
Authors: Anabel De la Cruz and Cristina Cortés, psychologists of Vitaliza Psicología de la Salud .
- Cortés, C. (2017) Look at me, feel me. Strategies for repairing attachment in children through EMDR. Desclée de Brouwer.
- Bydlowski. (2007) The Life Debt. Psychoanalytical itinerary of maternity. New Library.
- Olza, I. (2017) Parir. The power of childbirth. S.A. Ediciones B.