Addiction and Birth – the intersection
In this article I am looking at the intersection point that can occur between the worlds of addiction and birth trauma. Let’s look at a common path to addiction – alcohol. Australian’s are known to love a drink and a good time. But when a good time turns into an addiction, life can get tricky, fast. Statistics show that 1 in 20 Aussie’s are battling with a substance abuse disorder. We know that an addiction can negatively impact not only the person’s physical and mental wellbeing. It can also impact their career and family.
We know that 1 in 3 mums in Australia report birthing their child as traumatic the intersection of these two traumas is complex. It is also deeply painful for those who experience it.
New parents who see their birth as traumatic often speak about the feeling of helplessness. They describe actions being done TO THEM, rather than with consent or knowledge. Imagine the stress of being in labour and being questioned on your current drug use, or not being trusted to make your own decisions. You many be denied certain pain medications. Or conversely, offered pain medications that you have previously successfully weaned yourself from. Or feeling judged, seen as less than, or being spoken about as though you are not there by your care team.
Birth Experiences for those suffering from addiction
Those currently suffering from an addiction, or those who have healed from an addiction may face controlling, judgemental care. They may have feelings of helplessness during labour and birth more than their peers. The trauma experienced can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and fear. These feelings are then exacerbated by the lack of sleep and other challenges that naturally come when a newborn comes home. Is it any wonder that those with an addiction may fall back into dangerous behaviours in an attempt to cope?
One of the hardest things was learning that I was worthy of recovery
– Demi Lovato
Support and Help
If you have or are currently battling an addiction and have fallen pregnant, get assistance to set up a good support team around you. This could include the following people.
- Family & Friends
- Counsellor or psychologist.
From there, you can create a plan for the postpartum period
- Setting up a meal train
- Booking a birth debriefing
- Joining a mothers groups
- Organising counselling sessions
- Get involved with regular exercise classes
Honest, open and respectful communication will be key to an empowered birthing and postpartum experience. No matter your struggles, no matter your weaknesses, you are worthy of respect.