For years due to public awareness we are more educated on how abuse on children, adolescents and later on adulthood. "The effects of sexual abuse extend far beyond childhood. Sexual abuse robs children of their childhood and creates a loss of trust, feelings of guilt and self-abusive behavior. It can lead to antisocial behavior, depression, identity confusion, loss of self-esteem and other serious emotional problems. It can also lead to difficulty with intimate relationships later in life."  (My emphasis).
One in four women is estimated to have been sexually assaulted at least once in her life. This statistic is derived from two large-scale national studies that show the incidence of childhood sexual abuse to be 27%, with a further 17.6% of women reporting adult rape (attempted or completed), half of whom were also survivors of childhood sexual abuse. That is quite sobering especially if you are hearing this while sitting in a room with a group of women. The effects of sexual or child abuse has on a women during her childbearing years, especially during labor and delivery has been overlooked, however awareness is starting to be raised. Unfortunately, because it wasn’t often discussed during prenatal visits or during childbirth education (or the woman does not feel safe to discuss it or has repressed it so deep) the doctor, midwife, nurses, and labor companions assume that the expectant mother couldn’t handle child birth and are labeled as such. Because of this their specific needs and concerns are not addressed.
If you have given birth to a child you can attest to the fact that it is one of the most vulnerable times you will ever experience in your life. The double-sided coin is that to possess complete control during the process a woman must give up complete control. She must trust and work with her body, baby and the process. The end result is the same for all women as it has been since the beginning of time, a baby will be born. However, the difference in how that mother receives that baby can range depending on the circumstances. If not handled correctly instead of feeling empowered and confident as a woman, new mothers are often left having to relive traumatic experiences and feeling victimized all over again.
With the above stats it is more likely than not that I will come across more and more clients who have experienced some sort of sexual abuse trauma. I am fully aware of my scope of practice and that I am not a therapist or counselor, but it doesn’t release me from the responsibility of being aware of how a mother is reacting to pregnancy, labor, delivery, post-partum and motherhood. During prenatal visits I try to build a relationship with all my clients by educating them as well as spending time learning about their experiences and expectations. Sometimes the subject may come up during our visits; other times intuition and experience will be my guide. During labor and delivery I am to adapt my response to these mothers so that I may not cause further harm. I need to be mindful of words used that can encourage your average mom but can make a survivor mom completely withdraw or become defensive. A touch that can sooth and comfort most women may send a survivor mom into a cocoon or worst have her completely shut down prolonging her labor.
With all of the literature, education, training for professionals and counseling for survivors have become available as awareness for this subject continues to bring healing to women and mothers. I admit that I am still resolving to learn more so that I may better assist and be a better and comfort and support to survivors of abuse.
2. Besharov, D. J. (1994). Responding to child sexual abuse: The need for a balanced approach. In R.E. Behrman (Ed.), The future of children, 3 & 4, 135-155. Los Altos, CA: The Center for the Future of Children, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Bottoms, B., & Epstein, M. (1998). Memories of childhood sexual abuse: A survey of young adults. Child Abuse & Neglect, 22(12), 1217-1238.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. (2007). Child maltreatment 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
3. National Research Council. 1993. Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; Tjaden, P., and N. Thoennes. 2000. Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence against Women: Findings from the National Violence against Women Survey. National Institute of Justice: NCJ 183781. (www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf)