While I was expecting my son, I perused countless blogs, message boards, Web sites, and Facebook groups, trying to inform myself as much as possible about pregnancy and birth. When I first ran across the term “birth rape,” I had no mental image. What mental image do you even get out of that? I had no idea what it was or what to expect while reading up on the topic.
Birth rape isn’t easy to describe, as it differs with different women, depending on their experience. For some women, birth rape means they were forced into decisions regarding their child’s birth that they didn’t want to make. Birth rape for other mothers means that a procedure was performed upon them without their permission, sometimes blatantly against their will.
This, of course, isn’t rape by the letter of the law, but the term was coined by Janet Fraser after an emergency episiotomy was performed on her without her consent. Some people who believe women do experience traumatic childbirth but are not being purposely victimized will use the term birth trauma instead of birth rape.
Let’s talk about “natural birth” for a moment. There are a few different definitions of “natural birth,” but most sources would agree that it entails giving birth vaginally with little medical intervention. From my research, most mothers who have experienced what they call birth rape desired a natural birth. I’ve discovered that months or years later, many mothers are still traumatized by their birth experience.
As a mother whose birth plan went out the window, it’s difficult for me to understand this. I think that natural birth is a wonderful idea. I wanted my son’s birth to go as naturally as possible, but things ended up going almost opposite of what I’d planned due to complications. I will always regret that I wasn’t allowed to hold my baby boy and bond with him immediately after he was born, but I live with this regret knowing that he’s healthy and safe. That’s what is most important to me. Not my birth plan.
As a Soldier, it’s also difficult for me to understand how birth trauma exists, unless there is a death or near-death experience. Although I know in theory it is possible to suffer from PTSD without anything seriously horrifying happening to you…I’m skeptical. I can’t comprehend how childbirth could be equally horrifying to a bomb blast or being shot. But I am open to the possibility, and I’m genuinely curious and willing to learn.
What do you think? Is birth rape real? Are some women traumatized by medical intervention during childbirth? Is this trauma a symptom of postpartum depression or something of its own (PTSD)? Have you suffered from birth rape or birth trauma?