I can't stop thinking about my birth experience

In the first few days and weeks following birth, you may notice that you are constantly going over what happened during your birth as your body heals and your mind tries to make sense of what happened. For some people, these thoughts about the birth are not distressing and they quickly happen less often.

 However, if your birth experience was very different from what you had expected, or made you feel frightened, helpless, or out of control, you might also experience unpleasant thoughts, feelings and physical sensations as the brain and body adjusts to what happened. This can include;

·       Memories, images, or thoughts about what happened coming into your mind even when you don’t want them to.  Some of these memories may feel as if they are happening now and you might notice sensations in your body that you felt during the birth.

·       Feeling numb and disconnected from others or feeling on edge.

·       Having difficulty concentrating and sleeping.

·       Thinking about the birth a lot and going over what could have happened in your mind.

Why does this happen?

Although these experiences are often distressing, they are a natural, human reaction to a very stressful event. This is because when we are very frightened, our brain is not able to fully take in what is happening as it is focused on trying to respond to what is happening to us in the moment. This means that it does not have chance to organise the different parts of our experience (e.g., what we saw, smelt, heard, and felt) into a complete memory so it can be stored in our mind.

For these memories to be stored and feel more like our other memories, your brain needs to pull together all the different parts of your birth experience and put it together with what you know now. As this is happening, parts of your birth experience can pop into your mind without warning, and when you do not want them to. Whilst this can be very distressing, it is normal. It is a sign that your brain is working hard to try to properly store away the memory of your birth with other memories from the past.

In the weeks after the birth, you may find it helpful to talk to family and friends, or your Community Midwife or Health Visitor, about your birth experience. These informal conversations help to naturally process what has happened and can be enough to help you make sense of your experience.

Where can I get further support locally?

If you find that your feelings about the birth do not get better after 4 – 6 weeks, it is important to access further support.

Birth in Mind

Birth in Mind is an NHS service which is able to offer you a Childbirth Review appointment with a Specialist Midwife. The Childbirth Review Service provides you with time to talk through your birth with a Midwife, who will listen and provide information about your experience. It can be an opportunity to help make sense of how you are feeling, better understand what happened to you and your baby during your birth and understand what this might mean for future pregnancies. The Childbirth Review can take place in person or over the telephone.

If distressing thoughts and feelings continue, the Specialist Midwife may discuss referring you to the Birth in Mind Psychology Service for talking therapy with a Specialist Psychological Therapist. Talking therapies can help you to understand what has happened, put the memories in the past and move forwards from your birth.

If you would like an appointment to review your birth, you can ask your health visitor or GP to refer you to the service. You can find out more about your local Birth in Mind service and self-refer by emailing:

Barnsley Birth in Mind

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Birth in Mind

Rotherham Birth in Mind

Sheffield Birth in Mind

Urgent support

If you have any urgent concerns regarding your psychological wellbeing or require immediate support, please contact your GP. For support outside of normal working hours, you can telephone NHS 111 or the Samaritans 116123.

You can also contact your local mental health team on the below number:

Barnsley Mental Health Helpline

0800 183 0558

Bassetlaw Mental Health Crisis Team

0300 123 1804 (7.30am-9pm)
0115 1213 0860 (9pm-7.30am)

Rotherham Single Point of Access

0800 652 9571

Sheffield Single Point of Access

0114 2263636