Our Birth Trauma Experience
May 27th, 2021… A day that changed our lives forever. The day before was all well and good. Normal by our standards. I had finished my morning adjusting shift at TWC, finished up some reports and admin in the afternoon and headed home. Upon arriving was when I discovered that my wife had been having contractions and showing early signs of labor since about 7am that morning. So exciting! We were patiently awaiting the arrival of our baby girl. Our first child.
We had everything planned out. We had the playlist ready, the TENs machine, an inflatable tub to set up at home. We had everything we thought we would need to have a smooth home birth just like we wanted.
It wasn’t until about 1am that contractions were starting to ramp up and my wife’s water broke. But something was a bit off. We phoned the midwife and let her know what we saw, and it appeared there was meconium in the waters. The midwife immediately told us we should pack up and head to the hospital. Meconium in the waters was something we hadn’t considered or planned for, and traditionally it is seen as a significant red flag and risk factor for infection, more recent research suggests this risk is overstated, however it meant we were off to the hospital.
Rattled with some degree of panic we packed up and got in the car for the 15minute drive to the hospital. Concerned something may be wrong, the natural fears and stresses arise in your head, primarily hoping that your baby is ok. However, it looked like we weren’t getting our home birth as planned. But we could still have a natural delivery, right?
We arrived at the hospital and were taken to the birthing unit. We filled the tub and continued the process. Hours went by. I’ll never forget looking up at the clock as it struck 7am, thinking to myself how I would be just about to see my first patient for the day. The hours continued to creep by, and progress was slowing. By about 9am we were told things weren’t progressing and we may no longer be able to have a vaginal birth.
This news shook me to my core. TWC was founded on and focuses heavily on ‘Perfect Storm’ challenges. Things from colic and sleep issues, digestive challenges, immune deficiencies, emotional/behavioral challenges, and neuro-developmental disorders such as ADHD/Autism. What is becoming more and more evidence over time is the link between traumatic births/intervention and chronic challenges later in life. Knowing what I know about birth trauma and the challenges that could flow on from it, this news terrified me.
I look back and think that the universe gave this to us as a test. To truly understand what it’s like to go through such a traumatic experience since we would be continuing to serve families who had been through this exact thing.
10am rolled around and the OB had suggested the use of forceps. Another 10 minutes went by, and this was no longer an option. We’d been recommended to have an emergency Cesarian. Fatigued, exhausted & burnt out, my wife had given everything she had. We had come face to face with the end of the line.
At 11.57am we got to meet our daughter for the first time. I’m beyond grateful that we were able to get our baby girl into the world despite the events that preceded it, but stories like ours are all too common today and would go down on paper as a ‘normal’ birth.
But the amount of stress involved as well as the intervention required is anything but normal. Birth processes like these, we believe are one of the most significant events in a child’s life that will affect their long-term health and development trajectory.
What Is Birth Trauma?
Birth trauma is any trauma or injury, most commonly physical, that happens during the labor and delivery process, and often leads to lifelong health challenges, disabilities, and neurological problems for the child. Birth trauma is the single most overlooked causative factor of the massive rise in chronic illness in our kids today. Of course, it leads to short term challenges like lowered APGAR scores and difficulty nursing, but the real issue is the long-term health and neurological development consequences from birth trauma.
Again and again, we see both in practice, as well as in the literature birth trauma correlated with things like:
- Difficulty latching, nursing, breastfeeding.
- Sleep disturbances and disorders
- Reflux, colic, constipation
- Torticollis, plagiocephaly, shoulder dystocia, etc.
- Cerebral palsy
- Epilepsy (seizures)
- Autism, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental challenges
- Speech, motor, social, and emotional delays, and disorders
- Chronic ear infections, croup, chronic cough, RSV, and other immune challenges
Additionally, it’s important to note that birth trauma can vary significantly in severity. Most birth trauma cases go completely undetected and unnoticed by the traditional medical team because they’re not equipped to properly assess for the depth of damage that can be caused.
Birth can be extremely traumatic for both mother and baby yet documented and described as “normal” and ordinary. Sadly, in today’s world, instances like birth trauma must go dramatically wrong to get the attention of the traditional medical system. To keep it quite simple, the longer labor and delivery goes on, and the more interventions involved, the more likely birth trauma will occur.
As listed above, the negative health effects of birth trauma on the child are far-reaching and can be connected to almost every pediatric health condition. The reason for this is quite simple to understand – the system most negatively affected by physical (and toxic) birth trauma is the central or autonomic nervous system. And the nervous system controls and coordinates every other tissue, organ, and cell in the body.
When the function of this system is altered and thrown off course right in the very first moments of life from birth trauma, it creates a condition known as dysautonomia. Which is caused by injury to the Vagus nerve & brainstem which are very important structures responsible for coordinating our heart rate, breathing, digestion, immune function, social and emotional regulation, normal brain development, and so much more. These two together make up our “Air Traffic Control” or “Operating System” since they coordinate nearly all functions in the body. They truly do need to be at 100% for our children to have 100% health throughout life.
The Vagus Nerve and brainstem are most easily injured via birth trauma simply because of its anatomical location. These neurological structures originate in the upper cervical spine (neck) and travel all the way into the thorax and abdomen. It’s the upper neck that usually undergoes the most stress during a traumatic birth, with or without physical intervention.
This physical injury to the Vagus Nerve, brainstem, and other areas of the nervous system via birth trauma is what Pediatric Chiropractors call a subluxation. When Subluxation occurs, especially this early in life, it can have dramatic detrimental effects on a child’s lifelong health & development. This is because the brain and nervous system are their most ‘plastic’ (malleable) early in life.
How To Help:
The good news though is that Subluxation is correctable. The brain and nervous system can change all through life, and that change is most easily accomplished the earlier we can get it addressed since the brain is most malleable earlier in life.
The first step is always to measure Subluxation. So, we know 1. If it’s there, 2. Where it is and 3. How bad it is. From there we can craft the perfect, customized care plan (usually 3-6 months on average depending on the child) to get their nervous system out of the storm and have them thriving again.
Below you can see an EMG scan of a child who had a traumatic entry into the world and later suffered with challenges ranging from anxiety, emotional outbursts/meltdowns, sleeping difficulties, recurring ear infections and global developmental delays. There is significant tension, distortion, and stress in the upper neck where the vagus nerve and brainstem live.
Contrast that with a progress scan where that stress is significantly reduced and the child is much calmer, sleeps better, has less emotional outbursts, gets sick less and recovers faster!
To learn more, head to our FREE Empowering Parents workshop to really understand why kids are struggling so much today. You can register HERE.
Or to skip the line and schedule a consult simply click HERE and our team will reach out to you.
Dr Ben Edwards
Pediatric Chiropractor & Hope Dealer