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221. Birth Trauma with Jan Smith

Child birth can be among the most memorable experiences of life. Each birth experience is unique, and birth doesn’t always go the way we expect. Many individuals are impacted by birth trauma at some point in their life; this might be as a person giving birth, as a family member of someone giving birth, or as a member of maternal care staff.

October is pregnancy and infant-loss awareness month, and for the past two weeks we’ve discussed strategies and personal stories of infertility and pregnancy loss. On today’s episode of POTC, Debbie is joined by Dr. Jan Smith, Clinical Lead for the national birth trauma campaign, Make Birth Better, and leader of the Parliamentary Working Group for Birth Trauma. For over 10 years, Jan has supported clients who have experienced birth-related trauma, and also healthcare staff who are suffering from vicarious trauma, burnout, moral injury or stress. Join us in this episode for her expert advice on creating psychologically safe and positive working cultures, normalizing real birthing experiences, and recovering from the long and short-term impacts of birth trauma today.

Listen and Learn:

  • Debbie and Jill’s personal experiences with birth trauma
  • The values that led Jan to working in the area of birth trauma and the challenges and rewards she has encountered along the way
  • The short and longterm impacts of birth trauma on both families and maternity staff 
  • Jan’s expert definition of birth trauma 
  • Practical advice for normalizing real birthing experiences and overcoming harmful beliefs rooted in false narratives
  • Racial disparities in birth outcomes
  • Debbie’s personal NICU experience and Jan’s expert breakdown of the stressors related to NICU experiences
  • How Jan uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in her work with birth trauma
  • Practical advice for fostering trust and recovering from ruptures in relationships between families and maternity staff 
  • Jan’s experience creating psychologically safe and positive working cultures with her team
  • Jan’s expert advice for people who might have birth in their future 

Resources:

About Jan Smith:

Dr. Jan Smith is an HCPC and BPS registered Chartered Psychologist and is the director of Healthy You Ltd, an independent psychology practice. For over 10 years, she has supported clients who have experienced birth-related trauma, and also healthcare staff who are suffering from vicarious trauma, burnout, moral injury or stress. Jan is the Clinical Lead for the national birth trauma campaign, Make Birth Better, and leads the Parliamentary Working Group for Birth Trauma. Jan is part of the NHS Leadership Academy and provides leadership coaching within the healthcare industry.  She is Head of Clinical and Wellbeing Services at Kura Human Factors. Jan holds a research post at Sheffield Hallam University.  

Jan has written and published about the impact of moral injury and vicarious trauma on staff, as well as a preventing and managing birth trauma in maternity.  She has written, ‘Nurturing Maternity Staff: How to Tackle Trauma, Stress, and Burnout to Create a Positive Working Culture in the NHS’, and ‘Help for the Helpers: Managing the Effects of Psychological Trauma in Health & Social Care Staff’. Two books due for publication in 2022 are ‘Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Following Birth Trauma: A Workbook’ and ‘Acceptance and Commitment Based Approaches for Perinatal Anxiety’.

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Episode 221