Feelings following a negative or traumatic birth experience

The birth of a baby is a key milestone for mothers and whanau - so much so, that it’s often a defining point in our lives. 

Birth is where family begins.

Negative or traumatic birth experiences can have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on a mother, her baby and her whanau.

When things don't go well, and those affected are left unsupported, the experience can impact not only the mental health and everyday lives of those involved, but also the relationship with the child/bonding, the breastfeeding journey, spouse and whanau relationships and, even the wider community. 

Simple support can make a huge difference.  Acknowledging and validating feelings, knowing that you are not alone or utilising simple strategies can do a great deal to help process the experience and begin to heal.

There is no right or wrong way to feel.  

The list of feelings and reactions mentioned below is not exhaustive.  You may currently be experiencing all of them ... or perhaps only a few ... or maybe none of them sum up exactly how you feel in this moment.

No matter how you are feeling, know that those emotions and reactions are normal and valid.


Common feelings

  • Anger

  • Sadness

  • Guilt

  • Loss of control

  • Confusion

  • Anxiety

  • Numbness

  • Grief

  • Regret

  • Feeling let down

  • Feeling like 'the rug's been pulled out from under you'

  • Feelings of failure

  • Feeling like your baby isn't yours

  • Feeling like you're not being a good parent to baby

  • Feeling 'lost'

  • Feeling taken advantage of, manipulated or abused

  • Triggering of past experiences

  • Not being able to 'pin' it or name it, but just feeling 'off'

These feelings are very normal when one has experienced a highly negative or traumatic event.  They are a natural reaction to unexpected events.  Please be gentle on yourself.

Severe feelings

  • Delusions

  • Hallucinations

  • Violence

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Intrusive thoughts

If you, or your loved one, is experiencing any of these severe reactions, please reach out for support immediately.  
Contact your midwife, GP, local hospital emergency department or those services listed below and on our External Resources page.

Help is available

Further support

To read about strategies that may assist you with processing your birth experience, click here for our Strategies page.

If you would like further guidance or help processing your experience, go to External Resources.  Here you will find an extensive list of counselling and support organisations that can offer further insight and help.