Book review by Tina Gibbs
Birth Shock, by Mia Scotland, is available from Pinter and Martin as a printed book for £12.99, or on Kindle, for £6.99: https://www.pinterandmartin.com/birth-shock
In her book ‘Birth Shock’, Mia Scotland explains why birth trauma happens, why it matters and why it sticks with the parent. This is then followed by self-help techniques, how families and partners can help. However, the book doesn’t stop there. The author is also exploring other areas of perinatal trauma such as infant feeding, how trauma affects other areas of life and how and where to get professional help. Finally, Scotland concludes with how perinatal trauma can affect future pregnancies or the desire for some parents not to get pregnant again.
Overall, the author explains and describes the perinatal trauma and how it happens in great depths, talking directly to the reader. There are stories of personal experiences dotted throughout the book which aids the readers’ understanding and empathy but may trigger personal discomfort. Scotland includes trigger warnings throughout the book to help to protect the reader.
The author suggests that perinatal trauma is mainly a result of the system that women and birthing people birth in. She describes the system of “our industrialised society” as “patriarchal, arguably over-medicalised, a sterile environment”, all of which can trigger anxieties. Furthermore, the author moves on to explore obstetric violence and birth rape. She invites the reader to critically analyse how medicalisation of childbirth has become the norm and is undermining the process of physiological childbirth. This chapter underlines how important being listened to and being part of each decision is for a birthing person.
After the exploration of the history of the medicalisation of childbirth, and where trauma comes from, the author provides a copy of a birth trauma assessment scale and encourages the reader to fill it out themselves. This is also a great resource for birth workers and healthcare providers to help them to understand when a parent may be affected by perinatal trauma and when to signpost them to specialist support.
I like the fact that the author not only explains perinatal trauma, and analyses the sources, but she also provides a wealth of self-help tools which parents can use themselves. It is also great to see the mention of the 3-step rewind technique which, as the author explains, shows very promising results for people experiencing perinatal trauma. Mia Scotland has included instructions of an adapted ‘do-it-yourself’ rewind technique in the book which may be very useful for birth workers and healthcare professionals also.
Although her target audience seems to be parents who have had a traumatic birth experience, I would encourage birth workers such as doulas, midwives and healthcare professionals to learn from Mia Scotland. The referenced information provided may help birth workers and healthcare professionals to better understand and support parents who have experienced or are experiencing perinatal trauma.
Towards the end of the book, the author explores private and NHS services to treat perinatal trauma. There is a clear bias towards the private treatment sector. Very evident through the choice of heading for this section: “Things the NHS might offer you, but you might want to decline”. The author explains that the currently available NHS treatments “can make things worse”. The author concludes the section with “[…], that there isn’t much out there for you, but if you persist, […] you should, in the end, find that you can get help via the NHS. Good luck!” This was uncomfortable to read as it felt like a criticism of the NHS staff, rather than the commissioners and managers who are responsible for deciding what services are offered. I also felt it wasn’t as helpful as it might be for those who are only in a position to use the NHS.
I would have really liked to see the language in this book (and any perinatal book) to be inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community. Trans dads and same sex couples are at the receiving end of being denied treatments such as fertility treatment and being not listened to, and they can have traumatic experiences due to their LGBTQ+ identity. Perhaps in a future edition of this book the author may wish to include these issues.
This book is an invaluable resource to help all birth workers and doulas to signpost their clients to appropriate services, and to learn more about birth trauma and available treatments. The tools in chapter 4 are extremely useful for parents who have experienced birth trauma, and the breathing and mindfulness techniques in this chapter are really good to know before birth.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it.
Tina Gibbs is a doula, hypnobirthing practitioner and breastfeeding peer supporter and mother of four children. She is based in Nottinghamshire.
Nurturing Birth Directory Listing: https://nurturingbirthdirectory.com/doulas/united-kingdom/nottinghamshire/rushcliffe/tina-gibbs/