Pregnancy, Birth and Birth Trauma
Being in the womb and the birth itself both leave a big impression on a baby. An expectant mother can help her child to experience these events safely and without unnecessary fear.
By Serna Widdershoven

Dr. William Emerson is a pioneer in pre- and perinatal psychology. Prenatal means before birth and perinatal means during birth. Dr. Emerson discovered that we consciously live through all of the experiences of conception, pregnancy and birth. Even before our brains are developed, we store information in our cell memory and this cell memory can even contain information from long before conception. After all, your mother’s egg was formed when she was in your grandmother’s womb! This means that stressful and traumatic prenatal events can have long-lasting consequences – think of the impact of a death or a flight from a war zone, for example.

The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you understood why.
– Mark Twain.

Your parent’s experiences also influence the genes that are activated. The development of a fetus is influenced by the environment in which it is located and you develop the genes that you need in response to what happens in that environment. How our parents feel during pregnancy and how they interact with each other has an important influence on the formation of a baby.

This begins at conception. Did this take place in a loving way or was there violence? Were you planned or not? It is even more important to know if you were wanted. Maybe one of your parents would have preferred a child of the opposite sex. An unwanted baby can have a broken heart even before the heart starts beating. 

‘Unwanted’ children deal a lot with rejection in their lives. To compensate for this, they often do everything they can to satisfy their parents or other people in their community. They often feel that they are not properly seen and wish to be seen and understood authentically. They run an increased risk of burnout in their later career and are often too willing to help others, losing sight of their own boundaries.

It is important that a mother establishes a connection with her baby during pregnancy. She can explain to the child what is going on inside of her and prepare the baby for any necessary medical procedures. Explaining what a doctor is going to do and why reduces the shock for a child. It is important to be especially honest with the baby, after all, they will sense if something is not right.

A baby’s hearing is developed from 20 weeks after conception. This means it can hear all surrounding sounds. If there are arguments or tensions in the house, the baby will pick this up. So expectant parents should pay attention to ambient sounds, sing to the baby now and then or play music. The role and support of the father during pregnancy is also very important here.

The Birth
The course of your birth has an enormous influence on the patterns that you develop in your life. Below I will explore examples of different births and the impact of birth trauma.

People who experience a natural birth without complications are given the opportunity to develop a healthy sense of self-worth. They arrive on time and get ahead in life. They are in control of their own lives, feel optimistic, and are generally more successful. The baby opens its eyes and is placed on its mother’s breast, a moment that is very important to enable a healthy bond between mother and child. After all, it is necessary for a baby to smell its mother’s scent in order to recognize her and feel safe.

A baby that had an induced birth may have a lingering hunted feeling. Later in life they may be one of the late comers – making up for being induced by trying to arrive at the time that feels right for them. They often need a little more time and find it more difficult to get started on a project, often needing stimulus from someone else.

The assistance of forceps can be a painful experience for a baby with the risk of bruising on his/her head. The child may develop an increased risk of head, neck and shoulder complaints. I therefore recommend that a newborn baby who has experienced forceps gets checked by an Osteopath or Craniosacral therapist*. Likewise if they have had a vacuum extraction as these children are also sensitive to head, neck and shoulder complaints. They may experience life as a struggle.

A tight umbilical cord around the neck at birth can give the feeling of ‘dying’. You feel paralyzed and more withdrawn with every contraction, feeling like you are standing on the doorstep of life. In later life, this person may feel like they have trouble moving ahead, holding themselves back and not daring to take steps forward. They are also likely to dislike turtlenecks, ties or tight scarves around their neck – anything around the neck feels oppressive.

Children who are breech like to do things in their own way. They are creative and like to do things differently. These children may feel misunderstood and often try out multiple options before making a decision.

Children born through a caesarean section often feel helpless in stressful situations. They feel they ‘can’t do it’ and may find it difficult to set boundaries, perhaps feeling they unable do things properly. A caesarean section also often involves general anesthesia. The baby receives these anesthetics through the placenta and is thus affected. These babies often have their eyes closed right after birth. Mothers have not consciously experienced the delivery and often have more difficulty connecting with their child afterwards.

Some babies need to be intubated after birth. During an intubation, a tube is placed in the throat and connected to ventilation equipment. At that moment a baby is unable to make a sound. Later in life he or she may feel that they are not being heard and may find it difficult to speak and express themselves, they feel that “nobody listens to me … “.

During a resuscitation a baby endures a mortal fear. At a later age, children may challenge this fear by taking part in extreme sports, such as Bungee jumping. Another form of this expression is to look for meaning in life, asking about the bigger purpose of their life. In general, these people experience difficulty being in the present. You can help a baby who has experienced this be better grounded by doing things such as massaging their feet with almond oil.

Some babies need to spend time in the incubator after birth because they are premature or too small or sick. In a baby this evokes a feeling of isolation and loneliness. They have not been given the opportunity to build a secure bond with the parents. These children may experience shallow sleep patterns and develop a hypersensitivity to light, sound and touch. Later in life they may develop problems due to a (compulsive) need for control, or develop separation anxiety that stems from a deep rooted fear of being left alone again.

Accompanying you on your journey
The above examples are just a few of the possibilities from birth trauma. I challenge you to find out your own story and to find out for yourself what impact this has had on your life.

If you are having difficulty figuring it out on your own, I can help you process your own birth trauma, and also help you to connect with your unborn baby if you are an expectant parent.

As a body-oriented psychotherapist, I work with mothers and couples to connect with their baby and to process any negative emotions during pregnancy, for example, fears about your own birth.

If you have dealt with your own birth trauma before giving birth, you can let yourself be guided by your hormones and your own inner primal power during the delivery. If you had a traumatic experience as a mother or as a child after giving birth, we can also work on this together.

Please feel free to contact me to see if I can help you with this.

Craniosacral Therapy
See this website (in Dutch) of the Dutch Association of Craniosacral Therapy (NCSV).