Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy


Women we interviewed who had experienced life-threatening events in childbirth were sometimes offered counselling. This was offered through the hospital, GP or health visitor. Some sought counselling themselves. While some did not find it very helpful, many did. Some wanted counselling but were not offered any.
Women felt the need for counselling at different times after their emergency. Alison and Cara, who had both been in intensive care, were offered counselling while they were still in hospital.
There was great variation in when the women felt ready to talk about their experiences. While some women felt ready quite soon, others were not ready for a few months or even over a year.
Some talked early on, and then felt they needed to revisit their experiences again months or even years later. Being offered open ended counselling was therefore valued, as it was hard to know how long it was going to take to come to terms with their experiences.
Many found the counselling really helpful. Kerry had some counselling to help her manage her panic attacks after her haemorrhage. “I know she can’t stop the panic attacks. Only I can do that. But she’s shown me how to get through them.” Alison T had a similar experience.
Alison, who saw the counsellor again when her son had his first birthday, agreed that it was useful to talk someone impartial. She didn’t want to burden her family with her thoughts, because she felt they had been through enough already. “I didn’t want them to have to worry about me again because as much as I was feeling upset and a little bit down, I knew I was going to be OK.”
Anna and Paula both started counselling around a year after their emergency.
There were different kinds of therapy on offer, but one method that several mentioned as helpful was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage problems by changing the way you think and behave. Alice found the CBT helpful in getting her to focus her mind on something else. Belinda was offered CBT as well as medication after she developed postnatal depression.
Some women said they did not need any counselling, as they had enough support from their families and friends. Others who had not had counselling said they wished it had been offered. It would have been a good idea to help them make sense of what they had been through. Sophie and Tom were offered counselling but turned it down, but with hindsight they think this might have been the wrong decision.

Last reviewed April 2016.


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