Trauma FAQ for Birth Professionals
I welcome your questions related to birth workers and trauma. To submit a question for the Tap Into
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Trauma is subjective. It can arise
any event or circumstance
that overwhelms a person's natural
resilience -- their ability to adapt
and cope. Cumulative incidents or
ongoing situations may also result
in trauma for some people.
Q. What is emotional trauma?
Q. Isn't it rare for someone to experience emotional trauma?
Q. Why can an event be traumatic for one person, but not traumatic for another?
Q. What's the difference between stress and trauma?
Q. Can the onset of trauma symptoms ever be delayed?
Q. Does emotional trauma ever heal on its own?

The above questions are answered on the basic Trauma FAQ page.

Q. Can birth and postpartum professionals develop trauma from the work we do?

A. Unfortunately, yes; birth and postpartum professionals can certainly develop trauma in the course of our
work. We don't know how often it happens in doulas, midwives, lactation consultants and other birth workers,
but studies show that, in general in the helping professions, about 20% of people seek professional mental
health assistance for traumas acquired on-the-job. Because an unknown number do not seek professional
assistance, it's likely that the number of traumatized helping professionals is higher than 1 in 5.

Q. Are there different types of trauma?

A. Yes, there are two different types of trauma that we may be exposed to in our work as birth and postpartum
professionals. One is primary trauma. This can occur when you, as a helper, are directly exposed to a highly
stressful and or traumatic event. The other is secondary (or vicarious) trauma. This may occur when we hear
about a stressful or traumatic event. Primary trauma = "I was at a horrible birth" or "The pediatrician told me to
my face that he was the doctor and I should shut up." Secondary trauma = your midwifery partner just called
you to decompress after a bad transport, or your client just told you about her traumatic first birth.

Q. Is burn-out different than trauma?

A. It can be, or it may not be. Sometimes burn-out is simply a sign that it's time to move on and do something
else, or it may be that you could use a vacation or a lighter case load for a while. Other times, it may be a
symptom of trauma. If you're feeling burned-out AND you want to avoid certain situations or types of clients,
that may be a clue that there's more to it than just readiness for a new challenge or need for a break.

Q. What are some common symptoms of trauma in birth and postpartum professionals?

A. Please see the list of symptoms here, along with the basic list here.

Q. What can I do to avoid or help to minimize my risk of trauma?

A. Please see a list of ways to avoid/minimize trauma here, and the basic list here.

Q. What should I do if I experience trauma as the result of working with my clients?   

A. There is no "one size fits all" procedure, but here are some things that may help:

  • Get to a place that feels safe to you, if possible

  • Talk to a trusted peer, family member or other support person (be careful; repetition of a traumatic story
    may in some cases lead to additional trauma, and/or keep you frozen in the trauma and slow your healing)

  • Tap! EFT can be a great first aid tool if you experience something traumatic or extremely stressful

  • It's normal to be emotional, to shake and tremble, etc., after a traumatic experience. This is part of
    healing, and is much better for you than being "numbed out."

  • Trauma often elicits a dissociated, "out of body"response. It can help to pay attention to and fully feel
    your physical sensations.

  • Accept your feelings without judgment. It's normal to have feelings of anger, fear, guilt, loss, sadness,
    shock and more after a traumatic event.

  • Take deep, slow breaths. Notice areas of your body that are tense, and breathe warmth to those areas.

  • Treat yourself gently, as you would treat a person in shock. Stay warm, dry and get to a safe place. Rest.
    Eat. Take care of yourself.
EILEEN SULLIVAN, CERTIFIED EFT PRACTITIONER (EFTCERT-I)                                                                  EMAIL: AREYOUTAPPING (AT) YAHOO (DOT) COM                                                                                            (704) 905-4665
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your use of EFT. Eileen Sullivan is not a licensed health professional. She offers EFT as a certified EFT practitioner, ordained interfaith minister, and certified holistic doula. Where appropriate, please consult your healthcare practitioners regarding your
use of EFT. It is VITAL to note that you should not stop taking any prescribed medications, nor alter your dosage, without the advice of the prescribing physician.
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