Recently the media has shone a spotlight on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in new Mums. It seems that thousands of women who experience trauma related to childbirth are going undiagnosed.
So why is PTSD in new mothers being missed?
A couple of weeks ago I was given a diagnosis of PTSD. After an incredibly traumatic birth of my twin girls resulting in one of them being born sleeping and one of them being in NICU for 9 weeks, it came as no surprise to people close to me. It came as a surprise to me though. And that I think is what is key here.
As mothers we push through a lot of the feelings we have whether those feelings are related to Postnatal depression, anxiety or in this case PTSD. There isn’t a lot of choice to do anything other than this because there are little people depending on you. There is no way of telling physically that someone is suffering from PTSD; no leg in cast or bandage. It is an invisible illness and so very easy to miss.
My main symptom of PTSD is flashbacks and vivid dreams. The flashbacks are horrendous, they span from the actual birth to neonatal to the fear of bringing my baby home. I feel frightened, over protective of my family and downright scared of just about anything that might hurt them.
One of the main problems seems to be when women visit their GP or Health Visitor the feelings they are experiencing are put down to baby blues (which is assumed to go away on it’s own) or Postnatal depression; a condition just as severe but very different. If a woman with PTSD is being treated for postnatal depression they simply won’t get better because it is the wrong treatment.
There is of course probably the biggest reason why women aren’t being diagnosed and that is their own fear. We worry so much about what people think about us when we start our journeys as parents that sometimes saying we aren’t coping is out of the question. It can feel like we are failing or that we are ungrateful for the baby that we have. But this is actually where the new mums are being failed. Medical professionals such as health visitors are not being given the tools to know what to look for when it comes to PTSD. They aren’t asking the right questions and even if they are they aren’t looking beyond the ‘I’m fine’ answers.
Until I had the diagnosis of PTSD I never would have said that that is what I have. I get up every morning, I smile, I get on with the day. My kids are happy, I’m happy but it’s there with me every day and even I didn’t realise that. It is invisible but that shouldn’t mean that it shouldn’t be found. There are amazing treatments out there to help and by raising awareness then women like me can get those treatments.
Some of the symptoms of PTSD can be vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, sweating, nausea, trembling, anxiety and avoiding feelings or memories. For the full list visit Mind.
There is a lot to be done. There is a lot to be changed. There is a lot still to talk about. No one deserves to feel alone or to be left to face something without support.