Parent Corner: At least the baby is healthy! And other things people say
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This month we take a closer look at traumatic childbirth and related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We know that what makes childbirth traumatic is the experience of the mother (or partner, or sometimes a health professional). It does not need to be seen as traumatic to anyone else in order to be traumatic to the person experiencing it. 

We want to lift the veil on traumatic birth and PTSD. These can be such devastating and isolating events, and those impacted need our love and support. This month, we feature a special message to parents whose traumatic experiences are so often dismissed even by loved ones. And we include a comprehensive list of resources for both birth trauma and PTSD.

We welcome feedback about our newsletters. Let us know what resonated with you or what you'd like to see more of. 

At least the baby is healthy! And other things people say.

If you experienced birth trauma, we do not have to tell you how real it is and how debilitating it can be. Unfortunately, we may need to tell your mom, your co-workers, friends, healthcare providers, and maybe even your partner. They may see the outcome of a healthy baby as a success regardless of what happened to you during the process. What they don't understand is birth trauma can be experienced during any labor and birth, regardless of outcome, even when it appears that everything went smoothly. It can be due to an urgent or emergency caesarean section, unwanted interventions, fear of the unknown and unexplained, feeling powerless, or any other trigger that causes significant stress to MOM. It is defined by each individual, and no one can tell a mom she did not experience trauma or PTSD as a result of her experience.

In the wake of a traumatic birth, people often say things like: "At least mom and the baby are healthy." Or, they omit mom altogether: "At least the baby is healthy." "Next time it will be different."  "It's just one day in your life." "Thank goodness for modern medicine." It is likely that many, if not the majority, of these people are just trying to say something nice to make you feel better; this doesn't make it okay. 
How do you respond to these dismissive and insensitive phrases? Well, maybe you don't because you're tired and still processing. In this case you might want to vent to someone who understands, like your partner or a close friend and/or seek help from a professional or support group. Maybe you do have the energy or are so overwhelmed with frustration that you NEED to set this person straight. Below are some examples of how to respond to these kinds of statements. Insert your own descriptions and feelings, and don't be afraid to let people know that you can be thankful for your healthy baby AND unhappy with your experience:

"Yes, I'm so glad she's doing well. It was a very scary experience and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it."

"Thank you for your well wishes. He is amazing. I only wish I had been treated as kindly during the birth as I am now."

"I'm in love, but it is weighing heavy on me that I felt so powerless bringing her into the world."

"We're so thankful for his safe birth. It's too bad I didn't feel like I was treated with kindness and respect during the process."

Experiencing birth trauma puts mom at risk for perinatal posttraumatic stress disorder and should not be taken lightly. How you feel about your birth experience matters. It is perfectly acceptable to be upset. You know your baby's health is important! You are glad your baby is doing well!  You can love your baby and hate the experience of birthing that baby all at the same time! You also know what it feels like to experience fear, guilt, trauma, and sadness during one of the most important events of your life. You are entitled to feel all of your complex feelings. Do you know there are lots of other moms feeling the sadness, the grief, the pain, and the guilt, too? Find a support group and meet some of these women. Find a therapist to talk to. Tell your partner how you're feeling. Whatever you do, don't keep it quiet. You deserve to feel better.

General Helplines
These helplines do not deal specifically with PTSD and birth trauma, but may be a good place to start to talk about your experience and get referrals.

Perinatal Support Washington's Warm LineToll-free peer support line.  1-888-404-7763.  Leave a message, and a trained volunteer will return your call within 24 hours.  Offers free telephone support from either a mother who has experienced a perinatal mood and/or anxiety disorder and have recovered fully, or a licensed therapist. Toll-free talk line. A place to talk about a past or current experience with abortion, adoption, parenting, infertility, or pregnancy loss. 1-888-493-0092, Monday-Thursday 5-10 pm, Friday-Saturday 10 am - 3 pm Pacific Time.

PSI Warmline. 1-800-944-4773. A toll-free talk line to get basic information, support, and resources. 


Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Birth. PATTCh is a collective of birth and mental health experts dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth.

International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN). Offers information and support regarding the prevention of unnecessary cesareans and recovery from cesareans, including recovery from birth trauma.

This closed group offers online support for the members of the Seattle, Washington, chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network.

A national nonprofit organization founded to bring evidence-based care and humanity to childbirth´╗┐.

Offers evidence-based information on the risk or safety of drugs, chemicals, and disease during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Provides information and support for mothers who experienced childbirth trauma.

A United Kingdom-based organization providing help to women traumatized by childbirth.

Provides information for women recovering from a traumatic childbirth and from birth stress.

Offers an empowering forum for black mothers for sharing and learning about options for vaginal birth after cesarean.

Held is program of The Australian Birth Trauma and PTSD Treatment Centre that has a specific, trauma-focused service dedicated to birth trauma.

Blogs and Articles

When Birth is Traumatic, by Cynthia Good Mojab, MS, LMHCA, IBCLC, RLC, CATSM

Pain, Suffering, and Trauma in Labor and Subsequent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, by Penny Simkin, PT, CCE, CD (DONA): Post One and Post Two


Perinatal Support Washington is seeking a Treasurer and Secretary to join our board, to start this fall. More information about both board positions can be found here
  • New Consult Group starting 9/23. Dr. Leslie Butterfield is offering a new consult group for providers interested in deepening their knowledge about perinatal mental health. The group will meet once a month on Fridays, beginning on September 23 or in October, depending upon attendee availability. Each meeting will consist of a two-hour session focusing on assigned readings and the sharing of cases. One hour of CE credit is available per each two hour session. Cost is $75 per consult session, with the option to pay $750 for the 11 session series, thus receiving one session at no cost. Please contact Dr. Butterfield at if you are interested, and if you require further information.  
  • New Support Group: This Is Taking Longer Than I Expected. Denise Sterchi, LICSW, long-term professional member of Perinatal Support Washington, will offer a 12-week therapy support group for women who have experienced a postpartum mood disorder for 6 months or longer. The group will be limited to 8 moms to ensure ample time for the group to explore issues in depth. The group will meet Monday mornings, October 10, 2016, through January 9, 2017 (except December 19 and 26), in the Green Lake neighborhood of Seattle. The group will cost $35 per session with the option of using insurance. Child supervision will be available for an additional shared cost. For more information, contact Denise at 206-276-6063 or The flyer for the group can be found here
  • Dads Experience Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders Too! 
    Join us October 4 at 6:30 pm for a presentation and discussion about one dad's story that began with the traumatic birth of his child and the mental health experiences that followed for both himself and wife. Mark Williams will share his story, his work and discussions with other men who have experienced paternal mood disorders, and what the UK is doing to support new dads. Wendy Davis, PhD, Executive Director of Postpartum Support International, will present on national efforts in the U.S. to support dads. Mia Edidin, LICSW, Director of Perinatal Support WA, will discuss efforts in Washington State and local resources for dads. Swedish Cherry Hill Conference Space, James Tower. For more information and to register, go here
  • Perinatal Support Washington is seeking new volunteers for its Warm Line , a phone line that provides free, understanding, private support and professional referrals. Our next warm line training will be  September 24  in Seattle.  We are specifically looking for dads who have recovered from a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder (like postpartum depression), have supported their partner through a PMAD, or who are male mental health professionals with experience working with families experiencing perinatal mood or anxiety disorders. For more details, email warm line coordinator Julie Dragin at
Are you a provider who works in perinatal mental health or a complementary service, such as massage therapy, acupuncture, or postpartum doula work? We are looking to add resources to our internal referral list for families seeking help.  To apply for our provider list, please complete our  provider application  and we will contact with you more information. Questions? Contact . Please share with a provider you know who works with pregnant and parenting families.  
Are you a Microsoft or King County Employee or spouse of one?  
Please consider supporting us through your respective workplace giving programs. For King County employees, our code is 9187. Our tax ID is 91-1448669. If you are looking for us, be sure to check our old and new name if you don't see us--we are there. 
Warm line: 1-888-404-7763(PPMD)

Support, Education, Referral
Perinatal Support Washington (formerly Postpartum Support International of Washington)