The Truth About Trauma Surrounding Birth Part 1


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By Dr. Allyson Sunderman. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

“I had this belief that is I went to sleep, my baby would die.”

-Renee Groenemann

Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum can be a whirlwind of events that can fly by in the blink of an eye. Some of these events can be more traumatic than we initially realize. Trauma comes in 2 main forms:

Big T- things like rape, assault, war, near death experiences.

little t- things that are more emotionally charged, but are not life threatening.

These little t’s can add up over time and are unfortunately very common surrounding our birth experiences. Things like:

  • Deviating from your birth plan- especially emergent c-sections
  • NICU experience
  • Extreme nausea while pregnant
  • Lack of support
  • Issues with breastfeeding
  • Lack of sleep

Honestly, I had no idea that there were different types of trauma and it felt extremely validating to know that things like this can truly be traumatic and cause lasting stress, anxiety, etc.


Renee is a mental health counselor, certified EMDR practitioner, certified yoga therapist and yoga teacher, certified hypnotherapist.

She specializes in perinatal mood and trauma to help prepare women for birth and recover from challenging pregnancies, births and postpartum periods using body-based approaches and mindfulness.

Renee has experience trauma surrounding her birth story, however even as a trained counselor it took her 3 years to realize what was really happening. That’s how sneaky this trauma can actually be.


When a threat appears we have 3 options- fight, flight, or freeze. All of these options are given by our sympathetic nervous system being activated by something our body perceives as a danger.

A flood of hormones are released, our heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, your muscles tense, and our other body functions come to a halt. Why do we respond this way? Well, it’s based on our past experiences.

Ever been pulled over by a cop? I’m guessing yes… So, it’s possible that everytime you see a cop car you have a bit of anxiety as you anticipate him pulling out behind you. However, often we have these responses as our body remembers past traumatic events.


All forms of trauma are held within our body and may manifest in many different ways. Some of the most common manifestations are stress, anxiety, and depression. These trauma’s also come with triggers.

Triggers are often the tricky part. We often don’t realize what is triggering us until we really dig deep into our past experiences.

For instance, Renee had a client who would often experience anxiety attacks when in public places. It took a very deep dive into this woman’s life to figure out that double doors were actually her trigger.

She had experienced an emergency c-section and banging through the double doors into the OR got stuck in her subconscious as a threat. Feeling validated yet?


Renee uses EMDR as one of her treatment modalities combined with yoga, breathing, meditation, and other tools. “EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.”

Renee describes EMDR as almost fatiguing out the memory until the body is able to release it. This is much like how our body holds trigger points in our muscles. The best way to release them is to fatigue out the muscle with specific pressure until it releases.

Trauma surrounding our birth experiences can often be held in our pelvic floor muscles causing tension and tightness. Renee and I talk about this more in depth next week in Part II of our discussion.

10 episodes