Loss Trauma and PTSD….


My first pregnancy almost 18 years ago was such an exciting, wonderful experience – a ‘textbook’ pregnancy. I was fit and well throughout. At 36 weeks I started with stomach pain, which I assumed was due to a curry I’d eaten. This was, however, followed by heavy bleeding. Shock, fear and panic followed, and I rushed to the hospital.

They thought I was in labour and calmly put me on the monitor. At that very moment my entire world stopped. No heartbeat was detected. I guess at that time I detached from the situation. I dealt with visitors sobbing with a sense of disbelief and then somehow, I accepted that I had to get on with it. I needed to be induced and give birth to my baby.

Two days later I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy weighing 5lb 13oz. It was and will always be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.


A lasting memory was coming out of the hospital shellshocked and feeling like the world had somehow shifted. Looking back now, I can see that for about four years I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was in such a bubble at the time, I just got on with it. I think I felt an expectation for me to do this, given that I was working in the mental health profession.

PTSD can occur after any traumatic event. It can be very difficult to come to terms with, but it is treatable. The main symptoms of PTSD include; difficulty concentrating, irritability, avoiding places or situations that remind you of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety and physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea, racing heart, being easily startled and having difficulty sleeping.

Eventually after the birth of my second child, I recognised that the anxiety, fear and flashbacks were constant and decided I needed to access therapy. The main evidence-based treatments for PTSD are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR), which are carried out by specialist psychotherapists or psychologists.

CBT is a talking therapy that uses a range of trauma focussed CBT psychological techniques to help you to come to terms with the traumatic event. You can read more about it here: www.babcp.com/what-is-CBT. EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms of trauma. Sometimes, an event can be so traumatic that the brain becomes ‘stuck’ processing it and it remains vivid and intense. The person can re-experience what they saw, heard and smelt and the full force of the distress they felt whenever the memory comes to mind. EMDR, when delivered by a qualified professional, can help the brain to ‘unstick’ the traumatic memory, re-processing it and reducing its intensity. You can read more about it here: www.emdrassociation.org.uk.

I undertook a course of EMDR therapy as I knew that it was the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended treatment for PTSD and I had seen so many great results with clients who had EMDR therapy. Since having EMDR myself, which worked amazingly for me, I am now able remember my first baby and what happened to me when I choose, without the constant reminders and flashbacks.

If you are not sure where to turn, you can speak to your GP, contact your local mental health service or contact a private therapist. It’s advisable to access an accredited therapist who is experienced in trauma and PTSD.

At my private practice I offer CBT and EMDR alongside other evidence-based therapies. I would encourage anyone suffering from PTSD to speak out and seek help. Baby loss, at any stage, is devastating and life changing, but you can learn to live alongside it and deal with the trauma with help and support.


Heather Howard-Thompson

Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Founder and Director of Yorkshire Psychotherapy Ltd


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