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The psychological effect that a traumatic birth can have on a mother

Posted on 10th May 2022 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Clair Hemming

Partner and Solicitor
The psychological effect that a traumatic birth can have on a mother

When a mother has been through a traumatic birth and has had moments where they have feared for the safety and even the life of their child, understandably their immediate focus is almost always solely on their baby.   

During Mental Health Awareness week we would like to highlight the psychological effect that a traumatic birth can have on a mother, which is often overlooked, and in particular where the medical care provided has been negligent.    

Sometimes childbirth is not straightforward.   There could be a difficult labour with complications requiring medical staff to intervene with an instrumental delivery or an emergency caesarean section.  Sometimes mother and baby can suffer injuries which have long terms effects.    Where the child has suffered an injury during the birth this can compound the distress experienced by the mother and lead to further anxiety.


Injuries a Mother can sustain during birth

  • Severe perineal tears.
  • Nerve damage due to a long and obstructed labour, for example damage to the sacral plexus or pudendal nerve.
  • Urinary urgency/stress incontinence.
  • A lack of awareness of bladder sensation.
  • Faecal incontinence or difficulty evacuating
  • Loss of sexual function and sensation
  • Psychiatric harm – for example Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) or depression.

The consequences of psychiatric injuries will vary from mother to mother but can include:

  • Flashbacks to the events of the birth accompanied by waves of panic.
  • Phobic avoidance behaviours i.e. a need to avoid circumstances that might initiate flashbacks.
  • Hyper vigilance and a constant sense that bad things are about to happen.
  • Fatigue, poor concentration and panic attacks.
  • Feelings of amotivation, anhedonia, tearfulness, sleep disturbance, lowered self-esteem and poor
  • Feelings of worthlessness and feelings that life is not worth living.
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby.
  • Feelings of guilt and anger

The consequences of these injuries can be significant, impacting upon the mother’s ability to care for her baby (and any other children), cope with activities of daily life and employment/ career progression.


Legal Background

It is important to remember that childbirth is not without risk and that the potential problems described above are not always avoidable.

In some cases, however, problems such as those described above can be avoided for example if an elective caesarean was performed or with better management of the birth.

Any claim for injuries sustained by the mother must be brought within 3 years of the date of the incident.

It is important to consider a claim early on, because if you have Legal Expenses Insurance this may cover you for bringing a claim, but many policies have reporting time limits within which the insurer must be notified of a potential claim.

If you do not have Legal Expenses Insurance, then a claim can brought on a “No win - No Fee” basis.

As national experts we have a reputation for winning cases and securing maximum compensation for our clients. Read some of our recent successful cases here.


How can Tozers help?

For any further information, or for advice on bringing a claim please contact our dedicated medical negligence legal experts.

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