Dealing with Infant Trauma
Often, I hear people say that “it is a good thing that the baby was so young” when he/she was exposed to traumatic events in the womb, infancy and/or during early childhood, as the child won’t remember these incidents. This statement implies that the child is OK nonetheless. The important fact is that prenates and infants are very vulnerable to varieties of trauma that can be registered in their body mind system and affect them into childhood/adulthood depending upon the severity of the cause. The developing brain and nervous system may go on hyper alert that can cause emotional and learning consequences.
Many parents may not realize that their babies are acutely distressed and require treatment for these traumas. A baby who receives prolonged exposure to stressful conditions feels anxious, fearful and helpless. Without appropriate relief this can be unbearable.
What signs can indicate that your baby has been traumatized? You may see glossed over eyes, constricted muscles, arching of the back, startle reactions, agitation, prolonged crying, avoidant behaviors. Or you may see complete shutdown, which may look like an overly placid baby.
What are some causes of fetal/infant trauma?
- Exposure in the womb to alcohol, drugs, violence, arguments, loud noises, loss of twin, or not feeling wanted
- Labor and birth complications, such as cord trauma, being stuck for prolonged periods, anesthesia, and surgical procedures
- ICU interventions
- Separation from mother or parents
- Falls and accidents
- Physical and emotional abuse
Infant mental health professionals and prenatal and perinatal clinicians are trained to treat shock and trauma received during the fetal period through 24 months. The earlier that treatment can be received the better for the baby and child. Treatments include talking to the baby, energy treatments, massage, and cranial-sacral sessions. Adults also need therapeutic support for trauma they suffered as infants.
For more in this topic, contact me or go to birthpsychology.com.