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Navigating Pregnancy When You’re in Trauma

by | Betrayal Trauma

This episode is Part 4 of Anne’s interview with Paige.
Part 1: “Armchair Pathology”: What You Need to Know

Part 2: Is My Husband Enmeshed With His Mother?
Part 3: Can Herbal Medicine Help With Betrayal Trauma Symptoms?
Part 4: Navigating Pregnancy When You’re in Trauma (this episode)

It’s often difficult to identify and then seek safety from abuse and betrayal.

But when you’re pregnant? It can be even more difficult – your body, hormones, and immediate future require nourishment, attention, and focus.

Paige is back on The BTR.ORG Podcast with Anne, and together, they share their experiences of processing trauma while pregnant.

I’m Pregnant, and I’m in Trauma – Help!

If you’re pregnant and experiencing trauma as a result of your partner’s infidelity and emotional or psychological abuse and sexual coercion, consider that your safety and health are the number one priorities right now.

Paige shares some steps that you may consider taking right away to work toward creating safety so that you and your baby can experience the health that you deserve:

  • Confide in your practitioner about the abuse and trauma, if it’s safe to do so.
  • Prioritize hydration and nutrition, making sure that your physical needs are met.
  • Tune in to your body, and consider putting physical proximity between yourself and the abuser so that a degree of calm is established within your body and the physical space that you are living in.

BTR.ORG Is Here For You

At BTR.ORG, we understand the inner conflict between wanting the relationship to work out so that the child has two parents, and wanting to create safety and independence away from the abuser so that the child doesn’t have to feel the same fear, emotional dysregulation, and panic that you experience as a result of your partner’s behaviors.

Consider attending a BTR.ORG Group Session – joining a safe community offers victims a space to process trauma. We’d love to see you in a session today.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:01): Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne.

(00:56): Paige, a member of our community, is back today. We’re continuing our conversation. We started talking a few weeks ago, so go back to the beginning. Listen to that first if you haven’t yet, and then join us here today. Paige and I start off talking about the different ways to heal, how there are lots of different options for victims. I’m going to start off talking about the things that helped me.

Exploring Healing Strategies

(01:51): I really love meditation. I love yoga, I love walks. I love hikes outside. Are you interested in essential oils or herbal remedies? As you experiment with healthy coping strategies, you can see what works for you because everybody’s different. I know it’s not all, but the majority of my listeners have experienced a pregnancy at one point in their lives. Some may be pregnant now.

Complications due to Trauma & Abuse

As a midwife, can you talk a little bit about experiencing emotional and psychological abuse and experiencing betrayal when you are pregnant? I had some super traumatic things occur, as I’m sure so many women have who listened. When I was pregnant, I ended up on bedrest. Especially with my first son, my husband was extremely emotionally and psychologically abusive. I couldn’t get out of bed, and I had pretty severe contractions. In the end, my cervix would not open, not even a little bit. Not even after 36 hours of Pitocin, so I had to have a C-section.

I had a lot of pregnancy complications. I’m not sure if it was directly due to the emotional and psychological abuse, but I feel like it was. I don’t know if a doctor would confirm that, but I felt like all of it was directly related. What are your tips for women who are experiencing this type of abuse during pregnancy?

Tips for Women Experiencing Abuse During Pregnancy

Paige (03:23): If it’s safe to do so, definitely communicate that with your provider. We’ve had women who have shared, in serving them, that there are different levels of abuse that they’re experiencing. Oftentimes when unresolved, these can come up during the birth process with things not progressing because they have a partner there who’s not a safe person.

So their body doesn’t feel safe to allow things to happen as they should. If you feel safe communicating that with your provider, definitely just let them know. Not all providers are going to be a safe person for that. Sadly, that is really disappointing that we can’t even find safety during pregnancy and birth. One of the biggest things in any pregnancy, but especially when dealing with active trauma and abuse, is really focusing on nutrition. Nutrition in pregnancy can address a lot of things that typically can be exacerbated by abuse.

Nutrition and Pregnancy

(04:43): When we are malnourished, we are not doubling our blood volume physiologically the way that we need to. We are not growing uterine tissue in the ways that we need to for the birth process itself, and when we’re actively being abused, it’s so hard to eat. It can be so hard to eat, and it’s so hard to eat really nourishing ways.

The easiest tip for anyone is two eggs per day. This is one of the best steps that you can take as far as nutrition and pregnancy. You’re getting choline, you’re getting all types of nutrients, B vitamins, things that are helping to nourish your body. Eggs actually feed your liver, and your liver’s doing a lot of work. So it’s not only dealing with a lot of the hormones of pregnancy, it’s dealing with the hormones of abuse and trauma because it has to filter those hormones as well.

“Really, the biggest step in dealing with a lot of that physiological impacts of trauma and abuse in pregnancy is nutrition.”

(05:48): Another great practice I find is just connecting with your baby. Talking with them in those moments of trauma and just kind of verbalizing. I learned this from a neonatal resuscitation course that I’ve taken many times, but it’s something that she speaks on a lot, is just taking a moment. If you have a big event, a big traumatic thing happening, an active abuse situation, it’s just connecting and being like all of those hormones, all of that that you are being flooded with right now is not because of you or a result of you. It actively reminds yourself. It actively reminds you that this isn’t your fault.

A Physiological Response to What’s Happening

You’re not causing this. You’re having a physiological response to what’s happening around you, and it’s that mindful pause and practice that can help. Really, the biggest step in dealing with a lot of that physiological impacts of trauma and abuse in pregnancy is nutrition. There’s a lack of education in obstetrics and gynecology in regards to appropriate nutrition in pregnancy. Nourishing yourself is one tool that you have to help counter the epigenetic impacts of abuse and trauma in regards to yourself and your baby.

Anne (07:33): I’m hoping that the thing that they’re not aware of is that copious amounts of ice cream are the answer.

Paige (07:41): I mean, that is a healthy fat for your brain and your baby’s brain. Instead of actual ice cream, I would use heavy whipping cream on frozen berries, so you’re still getting that good fat, but you’re not getting a ton of that sugar, but it’s so good. Yeah.

Using Meditation as a Healing Tool

(08:54): I’m trying to do a lot of meditation right now to reprogram my cells and my body and maybe my DNA. It sounds crazy when I say it out loud, so that I’m not as interested in sugar. I’m just like, love sugar. When it comes to dairy and chocolate, I remember when I was nursing and as a first-time mom, I thought, what does this stuff taste like? Right? My breast milk, I was like, I wonder what it tastes like. It literally tasted like chocolate milk.

Paige (09:45): It’s so sweet. I know.

Anne (09:47): I was like, wow. No wonder my kids don’t have any trouble nursing, and they will not drink formula. It’s because they’re drinking chocolate milk all day and probably –

Paige (09:57): Drinking the good stuff.

Anne (09:58): Eat so much chocolate. But anyway, I thought that was funny.

Understanding Nutrition in Pregnancy

Paige (10:01): So not seeing me visually, when I talk about nutrition in pregnancy, a lot of people give me kind of side eye like you’re 260 pounds. You obviously don’t know anything about nutrition. What the heck? Nutrition and pregnancy is very different than our society’s definition of nutrition in regards to our diet culture. They’re very different, and there are providers out there who still practice a restriction in pregnancy mindset where they don’t want women to gain more than 15 pounds. Wow. Oh yeah. I’ve known, I mean recently even women whose doctors, because they’re like, you don’t need to gain more than 15 pounds any more than that, it’s going to be a problem.

Anne (10:51): My one son was nine pounds.

“I definitely have experienced really negative physiological responses to the trauma and active abuse.”

Paige (10:54): My biggest baby was 10 pounds, 10.6 ounces, and my smallest was five pounds, 4.7 ounces, but that was my one where I was going through the bulk of the trial, recovery, everything, and that ended up being a premature delivery because of my own health, my physiological response to trauma is my blood pressure spikes and it spikes high. I mean, with the nutritional aspects that I addressed in my pregnancy, even being 10 weeks premature, he came out big, fat, breathing.

He didn’t have any issues because of meeting those needs, but he was great, mom. She’s had a time with all of this for sure. I definitely have experienced really negative physiological responses to the trauma and active abuse. What has worked the most for me has been getting involved in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and training in that. I feel like that would be another podcast episode that we don’t –

Movement as a Healing Modality

Anne (12:21): Please come back on to talk about that. I’m a movement person. My kids were all born. My daughter was 11 months old, and I had no money and nothing. If you’ve listened to the very beginning of this podcast, you might’ve heard some of those first episodes of me in my basement, which I’m, by the way, still in my basement, still in the same room doing the same stuff, but I gardened, is what I did in the beginning.

So I would go outside, and I would listen to music, and we have the betrayal trauma recovery playlist that’s on that you can get if you get on our newsletter, like on our email list. So if you go to the bottom of any of our pages on our website, it says, join the community. You can put your email in there. One of the emails that will come to you is the playlist, and you can get it on Apple Music or on Spotify, and I think we also have it on YouTube.

“Whatever works is great.”

(13:13): But anyway, I would listen to many of the songs that I put on this list or the meditations. There’s also a meditation one and garden and just stick my hands in the dirt and get my face all dirty, and I would go out and dig this giant compost pile. It was this literal big giant pile of dirt, and I would go out with a pitchfork and just dig in it. That’s a little crazy.

It felt so good to me to just move my body and be with dirt, and some women don’t want to move at all. They just want to cocoon themselves in a blanket in their closet. That’s fine too. There’s all different kinds of methods for processing what we’re feeling, and whatever works is great.

Medicinal Herbs & Gardening to Process Trauma

Paige (13:59): Well, and very relatable with the gardening that you just spoke about. Part of the practice with herbs is so many of them are so easy to grow at home. Oh, yeah. So many of these are very accessible for you to grow at home, so I have actually converted our entire yard into a medicinal herb garden. I have medicinal plants growing there, and I don’t necessarily harvest from all of them. It’s more just the practice of getting out there and just working in that environment, and there’s healing microbes in our dirt even so we’re definitely taking steps toward repair to our own mental and physical wellbeing.

I have found that your community and the ability to name behaviors for the abuse that they are has been one of the most empowering things for myself in just acknowledging that and choice. Those two things have been very huge for me and actually for my husband as well. Being able to recognize what abusive behaviors are and how they’re harmful has been a huge part of choice to change his own behaviors.

How Did Paige Find BTR.ORG?

Anne (15:28): Would you mind sharing how you found BTR?

Paige (15:32): I have a friend who was in a 14-year marriage with somebody who was actively being emotionally abusive and also using pornography, and there was infidelity and all of those things, and we had known each other through school, but not really had a close relationship, and in the complete explosion and destruction of my marriage, I had remembered somebody in passing had mentioned just a snippet of her story, and I reached out to her, and it wasn’t even in regard to what was happening. Well, it was kind of like a bypass.

I had asked if she knew this specific person, and she later had told me that she immediately knew why I was asking just in her own gut feeling. We created a friendship, and she shared a link to one of your podcast episodes, and that was over four years ago. I mean, she has since ended that relationship and moved out of the area.

Why Couple Therapy was harmful for Paige

(16:42): We will forever have just that very deep spiritual connection that happens when you’re experiencing such profound grief that comes with this and navigating that. If I could go back in time, I would never had consented to doing couples counseling, and even though it was my idea like, oh crap, we need to get to couples counseling.

You had sex with a stranger; we have to go see somebody about this. It was not the best idea. I know that the provider really meant well, but they do not know how to deal with the abuse of infidelity and the abuse of pornography use and the abusive behaviors that are a result of wanting to engage in that lifestyle. Is lifestyle is the right word? But they really don’t know how to deal with that, so couples counseling is not something I would ever do again.

I mean, I’m glad I had that experience that I can say, Hey, listen, this is not a good idea because until all abusive behavior stopped, it’s really just not safe for you. You’re being told to repair something that you didn’t break.

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