survivormoms_214_matte.gifImagine yourself in labor, and suddenly a very painful memory intrudes your mind and consumes your thoughts. Imagine how distracted you would become. Your contractions could slow down and stop. The physical intensity of labor might be overcome with the emotional pain of your past.

But it doesn’t have to happen this way. You can prepare yourself during pregnancy by reading When Survivors Give Birth by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus and Survivor Moms by Mickey Sperlich and Julia Seng.

If you have been abused or even just suspect that abuse may have occurred, you are highly encouraged to discuss it with your entire birth team. This includes your doctor or midwife, birth partner, doula and childbirth educator.

Remember, all of your care providers have a responsibility to protect your privacy and rights. If they believe it to be in your best interest, they may also go out of their way to help you obtain appropriate services. Open communication is important and will certainly make a difference in your over-all pregnancy and birth experience.

If you are able to share specific details, those caring for you will be able to make better judgments and be more sensitive to your needs. There are some things that might trigger your memories of abuse. Some are obvious things such as being in bed during labor or breastfeeding after the birth. But other triggers, unique to your situation, might not be so easy to identify. This is where when-survivors.jpgcommunication between you and your caregivers can prove extremely beneficial.

Having vaginal exams are common during labor and at the end of pregnancy. But having them might put you in an extremely vulnerable position. If you let your medical team know about your history of abuse, they will be exceptionally sensitive to your particular situation and comfort level. You have the right to opt out of this particular intervention, and your choice should be respected.

Fortunately, there are many resources available today that help shed light and understanding on the problem of sexual abuse. Care providers typically maintain a list of resources that include local therapists or counselors that specialize in abuse. They may also have books, recommend websites, and provide educational materials.

get help

There are several options you can pursue in order to promote health and wellbeing. What may work for one mother, may not be the best method for another. Sometimes, you may need to experiment with several techniques before discovering which is the most helpful. A care provider should always be consulted prior to trying any form of therapy

This is the first in a multi-part series on pregnancy, birth and sexual abuse. This article is written for the pregnant woman with a history of abuse. Future articles will be written for those who work with pregnant women and will address ways to help a woman during pregnancy and birth.

About the author: Lasi Leavy has 15 years of working with at risk adolescents. She is an ALACE Birth Doula and Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructor.