Can a Difficult Birth Create Psychological Problems Later?

It is well known that psychological trauma of any sort can have a lasting, damaging effect on human beings. The earlier the trauma, the more profound the effect, so the impact of a difficult birth on the infant as he develops  into a child and adult can be especially significant.

The Birth Experience

Imagine being a fetus. Imagine floating comfortably in the warm, soft, dark, fluid space of your mother’s womb, drifting in and out of sleep, surrounded by muffled sounds and heartbeats.

Then imagine the sudden shock of being awakened, and pushed and squeezed into the harsh, stark, and noisy outside world, amid your mother’s pained shrieks, racing heart, and adrenalin charged system.

Add to that the strain of an unusually long labour, painful forced delivery, or a life threatening situation, such as being strangled by the umbilical cord, and you have a major traumatic event. Then add the inevitable distress of the mother, to whom the baby is psychologically and energetically linked, and you have a super trauma.

And try to imagine, on top of all that, the added distress on the newborn infant of being removed from the mother for emergency treatment: the infant’s or hers.

What an incredibly cruel, loveless, unpredictable and scary place the world would seem to the distressed newborn.

That is the experience and sensation that is imprinted onto the traumatised neonate’s untainted mind.  A newborn’s immature nervous system is purely unconscious mind, combined with life or death driven emotion, so it does not have the cognitive capacity to be able to sort experiences and make sense of the world in a logical, conscious way. Its mind is like a blank sheet on which is printed the first experiences. And this imprint becomes the blueprint on which the child’s life and future experiences are fashioned.

Long Term Psychological Effects

Children who have had traumatic births are more likely to be anxious or aggressive than their easy-birth counterparts. Of course genetics and many other factors come into the equation too, but, if all else was equal, the child who was traumatised at birth would be more vulnerable to psychological problems.

Separation from the mother at birth, as well as the mother’s own post-trauma stress response, can affect the early bonding between the mother and child, which is another major factor in the child’s psychological development.

As a clinician, whenever I am presented with a highly anxious, angry, or oppositional child, I always ask the parents about the child’s trauma history, including their birth experience.  Actually I do this with my adult clients too. And very often the links are obvious.

Effective New Treatment

Modern psychological treatment can help to correct the psychological damage of a traumatic birth. Therapies such as EMDR [Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing], EFT [Emotional Freedom Technique], and AIT [Advanced Integrative Therapy] are particularly powerful.

I mainly use AIT in my practice today, and find that it is incredibly effective for dealing with the effects of early trauma. AIT uses kinesiology, or muscle testing, to help the clinician and the client communicate with the client’s unconscious, to determine which early traumas might be affecting them in the present. I find that traumatic births are indicated quite often.

The really good news is that clearing the birth trauma with AIT is quite simple and straightforward, and once the early traumas and their links to presenting problems are cleared, and the blueprint is recreated with a clear, conscious mind, the client is able to let go of lifelong symptoms, such as excessive anxiety, fear of abandonment, anger and control issues.  This is incredibly exciting stuff.

Lorri Craig practices AIT in her own private practice in Brighton and Hove, UK, and internationally by phone or Skype. To find out more about AIT go to the article on this site: WHAT IS ADVANCED INTEGRATED THERAPY?

Image thanks to arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

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69 Responses to “ Can a Difficult Birth Create Psychological Problems Later? ”

  1. Lorri Craig on September 4, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Hi Miss J
    Thanks for your story. Yes, I believe your terribly traumatic birth was likely to have impacted on your experience of the world. There is also evidence that traumas can be passed on to subsequent generations. And, of course, anxiety and depression, although partly genetic, can be learned from parents.
    I would suggest that you get some psychological treatment for yourself first. I prefer to use AIT for trauma, but EFT, TFT, and EMDR are all useful too, providing the therapist is experienced with birth trauma and uses a gentle approach.
    I am based in the UK, but am available by Skype and Phone if you can’t find someone suitable who is local.
    Your daughter might also benefit from treatment too. Weirdly, AIT can treat generational trauma. You and your daughter’s treatment should help to break the cycle in future grandchildren, but it would be helpful to consciously change the parenting habits that might have been passed on. Read my article on this site HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM FAMILY DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY.
    Good luck Miss J
    Lorri

  2. Miss J on August 27, 2014 at 4:15 am

    Hi,
    I know my traumatic birth has effected the core of my being. I was born 2 months early in my mom’s bedroom by herself at 16. Cord snapped off and I weighed 3 or 4 pounds. In incubator for over a month. Mom had to sneak me out of hospital so I would not be put up for adoption. More issues in family but will not discuss. I have always felt anxiety, self hate and hopelessness. I have two beautiful grown daughters but I do believe my trauma has carried on to one of my daughters. How do we break the cycle and are my symptoms due to birth trauma?

  3. Lorri Craig on August 19, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Hi Gayle
    Thanks for your question. Yes, there are a number of people trained in AIT in the States, and I believe that many of them work with birth trauma. I suggest that you go to the AIT website’s find a therapist page. It’s at http://www.aitherapy.org/wp/find-an-ait-therapist/
    Failing that, I do work via Skype with international clients, including people from the States.
    Good luck to you both Gayle,
    Lorri

  4. Gayle Hardine on August 14, 2014 at 2:36 am

    Hi,

    My husband and I live in the United States, specifically Southern California, although we are going to be moving. My husband definitely knows he has psychological trauma from a forceps birth. He has psychological scars from having his head yanked on and being pulled out of his mother. I have really bad feelings about my birth, but probably of a different nature. Do you know any people who do this kind of work in the United States?

    Sincerely,

    Gayle Hardine

  5. Suzanne on July 8, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks Lori for your advice and fast reply.
    Suzanne

  6. Lorri Craig on June 23, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Linda
    Thanks for sharing your story. In answer to your question, I don’t know; but your birth trauma quite probably had an impact on many aspects of your life, including your difficulty finishing projects. It seems, in your doll example, that you are stifled by your perfectionism. Perfectionism is often the problem behind habitual procrastination. And perfectionism can be related to anxiety and self esteem, which can be affected by birth trauma. It is likely that the trauma affected your appetite in the early days, as well as your mother’s anxiety about you, and these factors led to her starting you on babyfood too early, which might have contributed to your weight issue. Self esteem and anxiety can also lead to weight problems and to other traumatic experiences, such as bullying or negative labelling. So you can see the domino effect that the birth trauma can produce throughout lives.
    I recommend that you find a therapist who specialises in the treatment of trauma, including birth trauma. You could search for an appropriate AIT therapist near you, or an EMDR, or EFT/TFT therapist. Some CBT [cognitive behavioural therapy] might be helful too, for overcoming your habit of not finishing things, but this is better done after clearing some of the traumas. I offer AIT/CBT sessions by Skype, so feel free to email me lorri@lorricraig.com letting me know where you are [time zone] and what times suit you best if you are interested in setting up an appointment.
    Good luck Linda….. Lorri

  7. Lorri Craig on June 23, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Hi Suzanne
    Thanks for your story about your 5 year old. I do believe it would be useful for your daughter to have some therapy at some stage, but to clear the birth trauma, which your daughter would not consciously remember, it would be better if it was a therapy that worked on the unconscious through the body, such as AIT [the one I use most], EMDR or even TFT/EFT. However, I think 5 is a little on the young side for this sort of therapy, so you might be best to wait until she is 7, or at least well over 6 years old. Meanwhile, however, it might be helpful for you to have some brief treatment yourself on the trauma of her birth, because, as I mentioned in the article, the effect of the trauma on the parents, can have a lasting impact on their anxiety about the child, which can inadvertantly exacerbate the child’s sensitivities. It sounds like you and your husband are doing a good job of helping your daughter learn to contain her feelings, so keep up the good work.
    All the best Suzanne…. Lorri

  8. Linda on June 21, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I am a 56 year old woman who has trouble finishing things I start and want to know if my birth had anything to do with it and if it can be changed.I have fooled myself into thinking there are many more steps to do on a project to be able to finish some things for instance,I sew for dolls.To finish a doll hat I think of a matching purse or necklace to make to have a set of items in my mind to make so I can finish a hat.Here is a synopsis of my birth.
    Mother had morning sickness 24 hours a day through out the pregnancy, often hospitalized on iv fluids.At time of birth I was stuck in a too small birth canal(I was the first born to mother,21 years old).Doctor thought he would lose us both.Finally used forceps and finally got me out,I was not breathing.He hit me four times and said I was not going to live then hit me once very hard and I started screaming.I hadn’t much desire to eat so mother started me on babyfood at 2 weeks old.I also have had a big weight problem all my life.Could these issues have anything to do with my not finishing things I start? Thank you.

  9. Suzanne on June 19, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Lorri,
    I am glad I found your article as I found it very interesting. My daughter who is now 5 years old was born following an induced labour which was very intense with artificially strong contractions. She started to get distressed towards the end when I was pushing and I was told they had to get her out quickly. She was not breathing for quite a while when born and required resuscitation. I found out a long time later (when I was having my 3rd child!) that the cord was around her neck, she had passed her first bowel movement and was obviously very distress towards the end. She was an adorable baby but she cried so much, had reflux and colic and the crying continued until she was almost 5 years of age. She would get upset over the slightest thing and was very clingy to me and anxious in new situations and with new people. I have always thought her heightened emotional state and hypersensitivity was due to her traumatic entry into the world. She is now a fantastic, bright 5 year old. She cries alot less and she is alot less anxious than she used to be, which as parents has taken a huge amount of work, but I can still see her anxiety in new situations and with people she does not know. I am discussing her worries with her when she talks about them but I was wondering if you think she could benefit from more formal therapy to help resolve her emotional sensitivities and anxieties? Thank you so much.

  10. Lorri Craig on May 22, 2014 at 9:59 am

    Hi Terri
    Thanks for your message. Yes, it sounds as if your daughter is probably suffering from the after effects of her birth and post birth trauma. Given that this experience was obviously preverbal, I believe that psychological therapies that focus on the body and energy, such as tapping [EFT/TFT], EMDR and AIT, would be better for her than traditional talk therapy.
    AIT is one I favour because it is deep, but gentle, and moves the trauma quickly from the nervous system. You didn’t say where she lived, but you might be able to find an AIT clinician near you from the AIT practioners list at http://www.aitherapy.org/wp/find-an-ait-therapist/
    I live in the UK but offer sessions by Skype or phone if your daughter would like to try that.

    My next choice, if she wants a face to face therapist and cannot easily access an AIT practitioner, would be one of the tapping therapies.
    Terri, I also think it would help her if you had a few sessions around her birth and post birth experiences. It sounds like you have been [understandably] worried about your daughter since her birth, and this dynamic might increase her propensity to be worrisome. Remember, anxiety is often contagious in families.
    Good luck with all of this.
    Lorri

  11. Terri on April 27, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    Searching for right help to long time problems. My daughter was born extremely fast at two weeks she was so fast that once I delivered her I held her briefly because she was fussing and shivering. I asked nurse to take her and an hour later doctors came to me to tell me she turned blue and was rushed to icu they discovered she had pneumonia and two days later saw she had broken collar bone. She stayed in hospital for 7 days without me. I could only visit briefly as husband at time did not want to drive me often. So I always felt we never bonded enough.

    My daughter always had separation anxiety and since she could express herself a fear of losing friends and when she reached 7 she started getting daily hives from cold heat and stress she still struggles at age 20 and went through one year of lymes at age 12 and divorced her dad, poor kid.

    At age 14 when we moved she developed an eating disorder while struggling with hives and constant bouts of depression and illness. More pneumonia frequently and lots of strep throat today we are close again and she is trying to take care of herself but she struggles with fear the most. I know her illness is due to this and I am looking at a few suggestions to offer her to get through. Counseling actually made things harder for her. I’m looking into tapping and would like more info on AIT. Currently she is being tested for mast cell disorder. She has not been healthy since birth and I’m in need of something rather than Meds or traditional therapy Thanks for your time to read and make suggestions. Very appreciated

  12. Lorri Craig on April 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Susan
    Thanks for your question about your daughter. And sorry for the delay in response. Yes, I believe that your daughter’s emotional vulnerability could well be linked to her birth trauma. I think it would be helpful for her to address this through therapy. I find it is also helpful to treat the parent as well, because the traumatic birth can set up a pattern of worry that feeds the child’s anxiety. I don’t know of any AIT therapists in South Africa [if that’s where you both still are], but you or she might be able to find an EMDR or EFT/TFT therapist who would be able to help. I do AIT sessions by phone or Skype, so that is definitely another option for treatment. Please email me at lorri@lorricraig.com if you or your daughter would like to arrange a session.
    Best wishes…Lorri.

  13. Susan Nieuwenhuis on March 9, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Hi Lorri
    I gave birth 34 years ago to my daughter. I began to go into eclampsia from the morning at about 9:00 till 21:00 that afternoon when the baby was taken out by C-section. The doctor did not have time to spend on the baby and she was placed in aside. A nurse went out of her instructions and give the baby mouth to mouth breathing and send her to Johannesburg where she was placed in incubator for 6 weeks.(born at 32 weeks 1.224kg) Her childhood was filled with episodes of fainting, nausea, anxiety and she has a heart valve not closing properly. Her problems increased when she got older and she started to develop major allergies, her fainting was more regularly (we thought it could be low blood sugar) and she started developing severe depression and cannot handle stress well. Her psychiatrist started to treat her with some kind of epilepsy because her eyes change often (the pupils became big black – almost the whole part of the blue part in her eye and then one eye is different from the other eye)

    Can this symptoms I described have anything to do with her birth?

    I would like to hear from you.

    Thank you

  14. Pauline on October 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks Lorri, I agree and am not sure medication is the answer but how do I find the best person? She did not relate well to her NHS psychiatrist as there was a langusge barrier. Is it possible to contact you less publicly?

  15. Lorri Craig on October 12, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Hi Pauline
    Even though your daughter is on medication, it’s usually better to have therapy as well, as long as she is willing. If she would rather not work by skype, please hunt around for a local person who could help her. Good luck.
    Lorri

  16. Pauline on October 12, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Hi Lorri,
    Thank you for the information about skype. My daughter is 22. A psychiatrist has just prescribed paroxetine.

  17. Lorri Craig on October 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    Hi Pauline
    When I do AIT by Skype, I usually use self muscle testing, which means that I tune into the client and muscle test myself. Otherwise I ask the client to tune into the feelings and where they are holding the trauma in their bodies. Most often I use a bit of both. Skype is not ideal for young children, but it is possible if the parent can work surrogately with the child. How old is your daughter?
    Lorri

  18. Pauline on October 1, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Hi Lorri,
    How does the AIT by telephone or skype work? How do you do the kinesiology bit?
    I am trying to find help for my daughter but we live in Scotland and I can not find a therapist on the list in this part of the world.

  19. Lorri Craig on September 12, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Hi Sabrina
    Once again, please forgive me for neglecting to respond to your comment. I have now, and have included your original story and my response below, so that it doesn’t get lost in the other comments…. Lorri

    YOU WROTE:
    My story is long but I have been searching for answers for a very long time. Perhaps you can help shed some light and give some direction. I was born at 8 months gestation 53 years ago when my Mom began to hemorrage and I was drowning in her blood. She slipped into a coma and I was taken by c-section and placed in an incubator. I suffered severe respiratory distress and was in nicu (or whatever it was called 53 years ago) for a few months. My Mom recovered from her coma and was released from the hospital before I was released. The doctor said we were both lucky to have survived. From what I have heard from family members, my parents were having very serious marital problems during my Mom’s pregnancy with me and she discovered some shocking news about my Father just prior to going into early labor. For the first 5 years of my life I would have episodes where I would stop breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital. The doctor said that my lungs would strengthen over time and eventually these episodes stopped. My Mom said I was very nervous and afraid as a little girl. She said I would run in the house screaming and crying if a truck passed by or a plane flew over the house. She said that I would cry when my older sisters would crack their gum or wiggle their toes. My eyes would stick together and I fell down the stairs many mornings. My parents divorced soon after I was born and it was violent and horrible; not a friendly divorce at all. I wanted out of the house and so I met my childhood sweetheart and became pregnant at age 15. As I said, the story is long so I am going to fast forward to age 37 when I developed Cushings Syndrome. The doctors could not find the source and so I asked them many times if it may have had anything to do with my traumatic birth and they would never entertain the idea. I eventually had my adrenal glands removed and now take hormone replacement therapy. I wonder if my adrenal glands could have been saved with one of the techniques you mentioned or if any of those techniques might still be helpful as I suffer from severe anxiety,depression,and seem to be unable to live a fruitful life. Lots need to be sorted out and healed in my life even from pre-natal…..

    I WROTE:
    Hi Sabrina
    I am so sorry for not responding quicker. I mistakenly thought I had. Thanks so much for your story. I am not an expert in physical diseases, but given that Cushings Syndrome is related to cortisol, a stress hormone, I think your suggestion about a link between this illness and your very stressful beginnings is quite likely. It makes intuitive sense anyway. Your birth experience would have programmed your nervous system to be on high alert, and it sounds like this continued throughout your childhood, so your body would have created far more than a normal amount of stress hormone. Sabrina, I do believe that you can get help for your anxiety and depression from a good therapist, particularly an AIT therapist. I can do sessions by skype or phone, but you might want to go to the AIT web site to see if you can find a local person to work with you in the flesh. It’s at http://www.aitherapy.org
    Good luck Sabrina and contact me directly at lorri@lorricraig.com if you want to.

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