#217 | EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprogramming for Birth Trauma with Carolyn Yates, LMFT

June 14, 2023

At least one-third of women report to experiencing birth trauma. Traumatic experiences can be trapped in the physical body and manifest as post-traumatic stress disorder, easily triggered by everyday events and preventing us from fully embracing our experience as a mothers. Talk therapy can be helpful but often is not sufficient to fully resolve trauma, because trauma causes our brains to become wired to focus on repetitive thoughts, creating a maladaptive circuit.  Fortunately, when we sleep, our brains process our emotions and release negative associations, but it takes many weeks or even years for trauma to fully process in our sleep. EMDR works to accelerate this process through specific, guided eye movement therapy, and has been shown to be extremely effective at quickly and successfully releasing trauma. In the United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense have cited EMDR as a “best practice” in treating veterans with PTSD. Research demonstrating the effectiveness of EMDR includes dozens of clinical trials, research studies and academic papers. It has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and multiple other governmental and/or health organizations. Carolyn Yates, LMFT and EMDR practitioner joins us today to explain how and why EMDR is a revolutionary treatment for not only birth trauma but any traumatic event.

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View Episode Transcript

There's that idea of neurons that fire together wire together with pregnancy and miscarriage and birth trauma that's its it occurs in the body. So I find EMDR around all of these different issues. It's a release of sorts, you know, to think about it that way the body's holding on to this trauma and you're allowing it to release and the body can let go of it because it's no longer serving you in those moments.

It's a really under recognized area of trauma, healing that you must release it through the body, if you aren't actually doing some sort of physical release. It's just, it's still there.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

My name is Carolyn Yates. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And I have a private practice in Southport, Connecticut. So today I'm here to talk about EMDR, which stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. So it's a modality that is often used to treat trauma, I have been using it in my practice for nine years. And I use it with a variety of different types of issues, but a specific area that I really enjoy working with his maternal mental health. So I work with a lot of pregnant women and new mothers, and the whole variety of types of issues that can come up and be processed as trauma, I find it's a really great tool to help clients work through and heal.

Carolyn, we're so glad to have you. You're talking about this today. Because Trisha and I have been recommending EMDR for years to people. And it's like we finally are going to get into what it's all about. And I'm I'm super excited about it. I first saw EMDR completely transform a woman who was coming to a support group of mine, she was like a completely different woman from one session to the next. So it intrigued me enough to start researching it. And then I started tentatively recommending it to other women and seeing similar results. And then I found you and contacted you because I knew it was time for me to experience it myself and understand what it is in order to keep wholeheartedly recommending it. And I I just thought it was a very cool and effective process. So I think the first question that we have for you is, I think the first one is how does it work? And then we want to get into why does it work? But first talk about how it works?

And what does it work for? Like really? Does it work for anything? Are there specific types of trauma where it seems to be more effective and useful?

Sure, yeah. So to both of those questions, I would say first in terms of how it works. Basically, when we go through life, and we experience something, whether it's good or bad, our brain processes all the pieces of the information. So thinking of like sensory information sounds, the cognitions the emotions, and it our brain connects it to existing memory networks. So when that's all working properly, things move through the brain and get processed in a healthy way, when you experience something that's stressful, you know, or, or, you know, some sort of trauma, a lot of times the memories, or the pieces of information can get stuck in the brain. And then they're maladaptive ly processed, that the brain often connects it with some sort of negative cognition about that experience. So what often happens is when someone experiences a trigger, you know, so if they're experiencing PTSD, and then they experience a trigger, their body often goes into this fight or flight freeze response. So, again, that's often a symptom of PTSD, you know, might be hyper vigilance, maybe someone's numbing or avoiding a situation. So what's happening is the brain is kind of getting jammed up, because it's experiencing that same stimuli where the trauma occurred. And, you know, so often someone becomes dysregulated and unable to work through it. So what EMDR does, is it basically allows the left brain to cross talk with the right brain. So when you think of bringing neuroscience, the left logical brain, you know, helps you to think about things in a more rational way than the right emotional brain. and often you're kind of feel things more deeply, you're stuck in your emotions. A lot of times when someone's experiencing a trauma trigger, they're totally in the right brain. And a lot of times the left brain is completely gone offline. So with EMDR, you're letting up the two different sides of the brain. And it's helping the brain to create new neural pathways that help the two sides to work together to see that memory in a more adaptive way. So we're not changing the memory, we're just changing the the brain's perception of the memory. So the way we lit up the two different sides of the brain is through bilateral stimulation. So there's three different ways to induce that in the brain. So it can be eye movement, which is the most traditional. So in session, if there's I have a light bar that someone's eyes follow back and forth. So again, it's lighting up the two different sides of the brain. There's tactile tappers, which I actually find a lot of clients respond best to that, you know, because I have them close their eyes that can help them to visualize going back to that memory that we're working on. So they hold the toppers and each of their palms and they vibrate back and forth. Again, that's lighting up the two different sides of the brain. Or there can be audio tones that alternate in each ear, you know of a tone that goes back and forth. And that one, I actually find works best, virtually over zoom, I hadn't really done a lot of EMDR over zoom prior to the pandemic, but because of the way, therapy has evolved, and it's become more common to do it virtually. I have a client download an app on their phone, and then they plug in headphones while we're in zoom and the tones alternate back and forth, so that they all mimic the same process. So with EMDR, there is a very specific protocol. Typically at the start of the process, we work on preparation, you know, to just make sure the client is stable enough to embark on this process, than we usually identify target memories. So I'm often having them choose memories that feel upsetting. It's almost counterintuitive, that you want to force your brain to think of something that's upsetting. But when you pair that with a bilateral, it often creates relief for people. So we usually identify target memories. And then as we work on each memory one at a time, there's a protocol where we're intentionally thinking of the memory, which lights it up in the brain, and then we introduce the bilateral stimulation, which helps the brain to start to do the processing. And there's different measurements through the whole process to kind of get a gauge of how it's working.

So does this technique work best in cases where there is like a single incident of some sort of physical, both physical and emotional trauma? Or is this Can this also be applied to like, chronic emotional distress over you know, if something that's been experienced repeatedly, emotionally,

I find that works beautifully with both. And there's a theory of big T little T traumas, you know, a big T traumas a single event, something that happened a lot of times those can, you know, be life or death or feel like life or death, or the chronic little T traumas, for a lot of people that can be, you know, kind of a chronic state of stress, or through childhood, maybe it was kind of insecure attachment with their caregiver. You know, so it works with both, you know, I find with big T traumas and something where it is very specific, the process is usually quicker, because you just identify that target memory, and the brain usually clears it out a little quicker when there's more longer term chronic trauma. EMDR still works really well, it just often is a little bit of a longer process, because there's more to sort through.

And we talk a little bit more in detail about exactly how it's working. So are you saying when they feel the emotion as opposed to talking in a very logical way about the event? Are you saying a part of the brain lights up? Is it the right part of their brain? And then tell us exactly what happens when their brain now recognizes, let's say, the alternate buzzers in the hands or something? Yeah, so what's happening is, so they're thinking of that memory is letting it up in the brain. And oftentimes, in the EMDR process, I want clients to almost activate how it felt physically in their body. And again, it sounds counterintuitive, and for some people, depending on the trauma, that the process itself, you know, creates a little some Distress short term, although long term, it creates relief. So you want to let that all up in the body and in the brain. And then as the bilateral does its work in the brain. And what I guess another way to think about it to the bilateral stimulation is also doing what the the brain is actually doing the healing itself. It's a natural process that occurs, but when there's trauma that's gets stuck and not processed. That natural process of the healing gets jammed right or stuck. And so the bilateral stimulation helps the brain to create those neural networks that help you to see it in a more adaptive way. It also what EMDR is doing bilateral is the same as what's happening during REM sleep. So if you go, you have something that is difficult that happens during the day you go to sleep that night, the next day, oftentimes you feel a little bit better about it. And that's because during sleep, and maybe you even noticed that sometimes your eyes do move back and forth a little bit while your eyes are closed, which is that deeper REM sleep. So it's mimicking that same process. But sometimes the trauma the process can happen totally on its own. There's another metaphor to that. It's almost like if you have if you have a cut, you know something on your your hand or your arm, that the body naturally knows how to heal and knows how to create a scab, and then that skin heals. But if something keeps reopening the scab and irritating it, it's never going to heal. So that's kind of what's happening with trauma and EMDR is allowing the body to facilitate the natural process that can occur.

The eye movement part always made sense to me. And that's because I had a life experience when I was a junior in college, in which my best friend that I had through high school was a year younger than I said she didn't go to college when I did. But she went to school at Boston University and she was killed. She was crossing the street with a friend studying for finals, they took a break, they went out for a coffee. And a it's actually still in the newspapers like famous basketball player was who was drunk, hit them both killed them both. It was an absolute nightmare. It was surreal. And it was like the hardest thing I had ever been through. It was just absolutely surreal. And I was, um, obviously I was very, I was in shock. And I was grief stricken for a very long time. And I remember that year of that next year of my life. I remember I would talk to my dad about it a lot, especially I remember, over the months telling him how often I dreamed about her. I had dreams where like she was showing up at my home. And we were looking through photo albums together. And I had dreams where I was getting the news again. And months later, I started to have beautiful happy dreams with her where like we were in a field picking strawberries that were like two pounds and these big, beautiful fruits. And I noticed the dreams were getting happier. And I was feeling calmer. And I remember saying to my dad, I feel like I'm in the daytime I'm functioning like I'm working, I'm busy, I'm productive. And I'm not necessarily thinking about her now many months later. But I know at night my brain was doing the work and still helping you to heal. And I remember saying I feel like all of this healing is happening when I sleep. And he said that's exactly what's happening to us. So when I heard about this and heard the eye movement part, I thought, and now correct me if it's wrong, Carolyn, but the way I always describe this is like, it's kind of like accelerating that benefit that we get slowly over time when we're finally asleep. And we're finally in that second half of our night's sleep where we're doing the eye movement and processing the emotions. This is kind of very rapidly accelerating that process.

Yeah, I think that there there is a parallel there in terms of just what's happening at night. And what's happening during EMDR. It's the brain processing. Actually, on that point, I actually had a I've had some clients over the years that have had, you know, went through trauma, and they've had recurring dreams that are scary or negative. And I've seen healing in their dreams, which is really fascinating. You know, while we're doing the EMDR process, and they start healing their dreams starts to become more positive or empowered, where if it's always been a scary, recurring dream. So absolutely, I think there's a lot that's going on subconsciously and EMDR brings it to the surface. And I think the eye movement, it's actually happening with the same eye movement, right?

Well, and I find it heals things on a deeper level, you know, a lot of what we're working on with EMDR is, is body memories, you know, things a lot of times traumas just held in the body. And there, there may not even be words to go with it, where the EMDR really acts accesses that and allows through the bilateral you know that physical healing in the body, we're just talking about something doesn't necessarily have that deeper impact.

Let's Can we talk a little bit about specific scenarios for women in birth and pregnancy and birth trauma, we know that birth trauma is just occurring far too frequently for women. So can you share some experience that you have with EMDR and birth trauma?

Yes, yes, I've used it with a lot of women and found that it's again, it's a really great tool and I think specifically specifically for birth trauma, it it can work very quickly, you know, again, because it's a very specific incident that happens. I've worked with different types of birth trauma, you know, I think some of them are very severe medical situations where it was or did feel like life or death. Some for a lot of them. It's even the interpersonal trauma of not feeling heard by their doctors or nurses in kind of working through that part of it. You know, some it's it's kind of the loss of the rotations of what they wanted the birth to be, and it wasn't what they had wanted. And so there's a lot of layers of how birth can be experienced as traumatic. So I found it's a really great tool for that. Like, you know, some of the more severe cases I've done, I, you know, I've had women who've been through postpartum hemorrhage and had an emergency surgery, and for some, it has been life or death, you know, so the lingering effects of that, you know, and I also find, for women, when they use EMDR, and fully processed their birth trauma, they find it allows them to be more present as a mother, you know, I think there's a lot of benefits to doing it sooner rather than later. Even those early months, you know, with a newborn and an infant, I think to be able to work through that piece of it allows them more bandwidth to not feel as overwhelmed again, to bond better with their baby. So I think there's a lot of reason to recognize and acknowledge that His birth trauma, I think a lot of women minimize it too, because they just feel like, it's just what happened, and it's in the past, but I think to recognize how it may still affect you in the future, where they're also told, they're also told that, you know, well, thank goodness, you and your baby are alive and well. guilty for feeling distraught about their birth experience, they feel that they should just be focusing on the fact that they have a live baby, and that the doctor saved their life. Meanwhile, they have may be, you know, replaying these feelings are continuously day and night as they're trying to focus on the you know, learning how to be a mother and caring for their baby. And they can't get these recurring thoughts out of their head. So in a case like that somebody who maybe had an emergency cesarean or a severe postpartum hemorrhage in the actual EMDR session, you would be asking them to go back into trying to put themselves in that experience and feel what they were feeling in that moment to help release the trauma.

Exactly. Yeah. So it's going back to that moment. And oftentimes, with EMDR, you're asking them, What is the worst part? And again, I know it sounds counterintuitive, and I think it doesn't, I think that's a very valid question. I've said that to clients, too. What's the worst part of what you're feeling? I think sometimes, that's exactly what we have to ask women. What's the worst part of all of this? It's so helpful. Um, but one thing about you that I really, really appreciated Carolyn, and I don't know if this is, I think this is probably specific to you as just a very good therapist. But it's also possibly how EMDR practitioners are trained that I just thought was so valuable, is that what I noticed was you wanted to get me to the point of feeling something that you didn't need details. You didn't need all my god, you didn't need to go like, Oh, so then what happened? Or why do you think this and how has that been for you? It was like, none of that traditional quote, therapy stuff. It was like, Oh, you're feeling something? Alright, hang on to these. Close your eyes. Just take a breath and relax. And it was like the coolest thing because like, wish for me, it was just like, poof, poof, I just opened my eyes. I don't know how long you did that a minute or two. And I remember just feeling very logical again, again, like, Okay, what do we do now? Yeah. It was so interesting to me. And I, I valued that it wasn't about the details. And I think that when when Trisha and I do birth story processing sessions with women, so we've got some really precious experience sitting with women who want to talk about their birth stories to women who completely understand it, you know, either from a medical perspective, they have questions or from an emotional perspective, because of my years of experience running Postpartum Support groups. And what we sometimes hear is when women are in therapy, they so often say like, this has been more useful than the therapy I'm in so far. And I said, well, first, you have to make sure you with a therapist who has a high emotional intelligence, because the degree is not making every person with that degree equal, you have to hire someone with a high emotional intelligence for one, then you have to hire someone who understands what you're going to them for. But when I envisioned how I saw your opportunities for asking for details, and you bypassed them, and I thought, I'm not sure this would have been valuable to me, if we just sat and talked about the details, I don't know, for sake, that would be so that was one particular way that you practice that I just thought was the opposite of self serving. And because you know, your job is interesting, you have interesting work, you get to hear the juicy details of people's lives. So that's, that is kind of the cool thing about therapy. But you didn't take those opportunities, and you went right to the EMDR. And I like within one session of recalling an old school memory. You know, it just like went poof, it was fascinating. So what how do you know when it's working? Or how does your client know when it's where working today, today we'll have that experience that I did, or, or what, it's really fascinating doing this work because everyone's brain processes differently. And you can't tell before starting the process how someone's brain is going to process, what I'm looking for and what through the process is that someone's brain is moving. So essentially, as I said, we do the introduced the bilateral stimulation as we're targeting a specific memory. So typically, they're sets up of about 40 to 45, passes, you know, so either tones, tactile, or eye movements, then I have the client take a deep breath, and just kind of what I'm asking for is just notice what's coming up, you know, it's not too much trying to force your brain to stay in a certain place, it's, it's almost like a free association, let your brain go where it wants to go. And it's almost trusting your brain that it knows where to go. There's often a metaphor of like a train that's going and I was redoing the sets the trains, going through that memory, the scenery is passing by have that that old situation, and then each time we stop between the sets and stop the bilateral take a breath, it's almost like the doors are opening to the train, and the brain is letting off what it doesn't need. And that's letting on when it does, and then it keeps moving. So there's a rhythm to the sessions as we get into the work. But I'm, there are some situations where I introduce some cognitive interweave, so I kind of help sometimes someone's brain to kind of jump to a different idea or to challenge something that they're getting stuck on. And then it continued with a bilateral. So if that helps move the process along, but some people's brains just seem to, to move along, and I'm just kind of guiding it. But what do you mean about that jumping to another? Can you give us a specific example on that? Well, um, like, for example, if someone, let's say, you know, some themes that come up with EMDR, there's, there's many different themes, but one I would say is guilt, you know, maybe if someone's getting stuck on guilt around a memory that's irrational, but their brains just stuck on it. Like an example of an interweave of something I might use for someone that keeps looping on that is like, think of it where your friend, you know, and kind of separating it from them for the for them to see it more objectively. And sometimes something like that, and then we keep going with the bilateral can get the brain to jump to a different place for before it was just kept getting getting stuck on that. So there's different clinical tools that I use to help through the processing when I noticed someone's getting more stuck.

The interesting thing about the brain, and sometimes the very annoying thing about the brain is it seems to want to get stuck on certain patterns, right? Like, and even if we kind of can release a recurring thought pattern about one thing, then it wants to grab on to something similar, and focus on that. So is that sort of what you're saying that if you use the EMDR, to release a specific trauma, then you might introduce other techniques to help teach the brain how to not replace that trauma with something similar to focus on like, exactly, yeah, there's that idea of neurons that fire together wire together. So you know, if there's a new network that we're lighting up in the brain about more adaptive way to see a trauma, it's like, we want to keep reinforcing that circuit, the more it gets used, the stronger it gets, and the weaker or the maladaptive circuit becomes. So that's the goal of EMDR.

Okay, so you're that they're talking in your lingo. And I just want to make sure I'm getting this. So when you talk about the maladaptive circuit, it's like, I know what you're saying, you're going down this path that's touching on the memory. But what does that mean? Like the maladaptive circuit like does it to have an experience where you're not going through the memory. So an example of PTSD that I've witnessed since I was a child, I'm a dog lover, and as a you know, always having had dogs, you encounter people once in a while, who are absolutely terrified of dogs. And I noticed from a very young age, maybe by the time I was a teenager, that whenever I encountered someone who was terrified of dogs, they had a story about when they were bitten by a dog. And it was pretty remarkable because by and large dogs are so adorable and friendly, at least in my eyes, but the trauma had to be so deep for them, that no dog could be fluffy enough and harmless enough for them to ever feel safe again. So what I'm hearing you say when you mentioned this maladaptive term is like if someone encounters if this person encounters a dog, their brain is seeing a dog and somehow, there is actually a circuit going through that old memory where they were bitten, right? But if we do EMDR if you have them sit there feel that fear feel that terror of a dog biting or attacking them. Right when the emotion spike, they're sitting in your office, you do EMDR with them, and if we're so lucky, they have that same experience that I did was just like poof, it just kind of releases they quickly process it now they see a dog what's happening do they form of brand new path? What now what happens in the brain instead?

Well, that's the hope Yeah, that the brain makes a new neural pathway that when you see a dog there's a new association with you know, and So another way to think about maladaptive and adaptive pathways are in terms of negative or positive cognitions, that the brain again, it categorizes these based on all of the memories that you experienced in your life. So, for maladaptive, a lot of times, it may be I'm not good enough, I'm weak. It's my fault. You know, if there's ones around danger, or life or death, it's I'm going to die. So those are the things that are automatically coming up. And rationally, you can understand they're not true, but emotionally and in the body, somewhat, oftentimes, it's not believed. So it's like, you want to get to that more positive adaptive belief. So further, you know, maybe the brain stuck on I'm gonna die, I'm in danger. And then the positive belief that you want the brain to catch on to is I survived, you know, I'm not in danger. Or if, if it's, I'm not good enough, it's, you know, I am good enough. Or I did the best I could, you know, for the brain to catch on to those beliefs that are more true, and they are better serve someone's ego in a situation.

I forgot the positive beliefs were a part of this. Can you talk about that you help them come up with the positive beliefs? I forgot how that part works?

Yeah. So typically, as part of the treatment planning, we identify a negative memory. So I'm gonna die. I'm not good enough. It's my faults. And then we pair with that a positive belief? What would they rather believe about themselves thinking about that memory? Even if it's not true? Before we start working on the memory, it kind of helps the brain to start to conceptualize what would what would a better belief be?

Is there an optimal time for somebody to start EMDR in relation to the experience of trauma, it can be done at any point, there are recent event protocols. So that's, it's slightly different, but it's using the same process. And there is a theory that says, six months is usually the period of time after a trauma where the natural kind of consolidation of those memories usually occurs, if something is still sticking, and still feels traumatic, or someone still having PTSD symptoms, after six months, generally, that's a sign the brain isn't going to be able to do it on its own. So again, someone really can benefit from EMDR. With that said, if someone goes through something traumatic, it can speed along the process to dues that reason, event protocol within the first six months. So especially with the birth trauma, you know, I think that there's it can be very beneficial, whether or not their brain is going to process it on its own to do a little work to speed it along. So just it's preventative, so it doesn't get stuck, you know, and I think it also can help someone's day to day functioning, to not still be actively carrying that trauma with them, replaying it over and over. And it's what ends up happening, especially to women postpartum. How many sessions Do you see women normally need for a big trauma? Let's say? So let's say it is a birth, a traumatic birth experience? What have you seen with my clients? I've seen just a few sessions make a massive difference, like three to six sessions, is that normal? Or do you not think so?

Yes, I would say if it is very specific in there wasn't a lot of complex trauma around before that period of time. You know, yeah, it can be a couple of sessions where they can create a lot of relief for people. So I've definitely seen that another way I use it to with women in the reproductive years is for miscarriage, I found it can really help and especially if someone's experienced miscarriage, and then they're trying to get pregnant or pregnant. After that, it creates a lot of psychological distress, you know, anxiety, just kind of replaying what has happened and fear of that. So I find it works really well, for that type of issue as well. And infertility, you know, I think that of just the even the cyclical nature of someone trying to get pregnant, and every month, there's kind of that cycle of hope, you know, as they enter their ovulation window. And then if they get a negative test, you know, a couple of weeks of feeling really hopeless again. So I think it can work well for all those types of issues.

It's funny because I did a Tony Robbins event in my late 20s. Very cool, like the firewalk. And like the whole works, and I have to laugh at this. But he used to bring people on stage. And there were very dramatic, extreme things there. Like you'd see a lot of people who went with kind of at their bottom in life and someone got them to these Tony Robbins events. And his strategy kind of amuses me, he would get someone to like start telling their story and they would start crying. And as soon as they would get emotional, he would like throw a glass of water in there. So I just feel is so like, I don't know, rudimentary. And he did it basically to break the pattern. Because sometimes when when people tell stories, they start crying at the same point in the story, and I think there is some merit to what he's discovered that like, let's just break that pattern. You know, if you had to sing your trauma to the tune of a song if you probably wouldn't start crying, right I mean, it is a pattern. But what so I want people to understand about EMDR is it not only interrupts it, it interrupts it. But the processing part EMDR, right. There's like this processing part. Reprocessing is what it's called to the RS for the part I'm talking about. With the eye movement, I just feel like that's the part where it really hits home and makes a big difference. So I'm glad that you mentioned fertility. And I'm glad you mentioned miscarriage because that brings us back to what you were saying about reforming new beliefs. Because you're right, no one would point to that as a, quote, traumatic experience when they're in it, they might look back when in their older years and say that was a traumatic period. But someone in it wouldn't think that they're in the middle of any kind of trauma during this cyclical ILO you were describing, but that's where the new beliefs come in. So would you have them recall the part where they get that negative test after the hope. And then you find that negative belief, I'm never going to get pregnant, this is easier for other people than it is for me, I just can't carry to term, then you give them a new belief to work on? Yes, you want them to replace that, you know, to, you know, I think there's so much about trauma that occurs and what especially with pregnancy and miscarriage and birth trauma, that's it's it occurs in the body, there's actually a really great book, if anyone's learning wants to learn more about trauma, it's called the body holds the score. So the idea that we really hold trauma in our bodies, it's very physical. And sometimes again, there aren't even words to go with it. So I find EMDR around all of these different issues. It's a release of sorts, you know, to think about it that way, the body's holding on to this trauma, and you're allowing it to release, and the body can let go of it, because it's no longer serving you in those moments.

It's a really under recognized area of trauma, healing, that you must release it through the body that like you can talk all day, right? In your emotions, and that does that really does nothing to release it from the body if you aren't actually doing some sort of physical release. It's just, it's still there.

Yeah, well, I find for a lot of people, they're scared to work on their trauma, because it feels upsetting. You know, even retelling the story sometimes can feel traumatic. And that's why I think EMDR is gentle in that way that you don't need to retell every piece of the story, you know, as the clinician, it's helpful for me to know kind of the overview on parts of it. But I don't need to know every single detail to your earlier point, Cynthia, and they can just let their brain go to where it needs to go during the processing to remember all those details to allow it to release and heal.

Some of the most powerful healing of trauma is when you're doing something physical, and the emotions just come roaring up. And suddenly you find yourself, you know, out for a run, and you're sobbing, crying, and it's like, that release is so much more powerful than just sharing your story. Absolutely. I agree.

Carolyn, is there anyone for whom EMDR is less likely to work? Or is there any situation where you would say this isn't the best situational candidate for EMDR?

You know, there's some clients if they're not in a place of stability, or stable enough, like if someone's actively suicidal. For some people, you know, some people just in general, if they have a harder time visualizing, or if they don't really believe in the process, sometimes it's not as impactful. I think there's got to be a kind of innate trust that this is going to help and sometimes to understand and educate yourself to know how it works before starting the process, can help you to feel more hopeful and buy into what's happening in your body in your brain.

That that's true for all methods that work with the mind any kind of hypnosis, affirmation work, anything that affects the mind, it does begin with the client having to believe and to have trust. Part of the part of the challenge in birth trauma is couples are already so isolated after they have a baby and women are so isolated. And all she typically has to turn to is that partner. And no matter how much your partner may love you and want to be the best possible support, they have no clue what it's like to give birth. They never will. They never can and they never will. But with birth trauma, the real problem is they're turning to this person who first of all, that partner may be traumatized from the birth as well in their own right. Yeah, and then they're never like talk about an unserved market. Yes, partners are totally they can get postpartum depression. As you and I both know, I've had the men in the class full on cry about how traumatized they felt and scared for her especially if she was rushed into a C section. But with the EMDR I mean with the birth trauma, they're turning to this partner and they just they, they're, they don't know what to say or do about it. They they have the suffering of coming home to a I distressed wife, and they don't know what to do to help her. And she, you know, like, it's so hard for women to know where to turn to be taken seriously with their trauma.

Well, into your point, I think, you know, when you have a new baby, so often, people ask about your birth story, how was the baby born. And I think if, when telling the story, someone experiences a lot of strong emotion still, that is, again, usually a sign that it's it's not fully processed. And, and one other point too is I see a lot of times after EMDR. And when it's successful, someone can tell the story or talk about whatever the trauma was without tearing up or, you know, breaking down into a motion, you know, that it just signals that there's not such really strong or raw emotion still connected to that memory, they can talk about it with more calm.

I also imagine that there has to be a willingness to go there. I mean, some people are just so good at repressing negative memories that they can't even access it. And in order for this to effectively work you the more you can actually go there and access it probably the more powerful the response.

Yeah, I find in my practice, there's a lot of benefit to addressing trauma, especially after birth, or after miscarriage or pregnancy. And I find when women allow themselves to experience the healing through EMDR, it often allows them to be more present and bond with their baby. And with that said, it's also important to recognize trauma is subjective, whatever your experience was through birth or pregnancy or miscarriage, that your experience is your own. And if you're noticing that it's creating distress or thinking back on it still makes you feel upset. That's usually a sign that it's not fully processed. So allow your brain and body to release it and I find EMDR works very well. Trauma is always valid.

I'm convinced there's just so much work to be done and so much research should be done as far as what every single woman not just the ones who are traumatized. But every single woman who gives birth it's a massive like mental physiologic emotional experience and we take it in stride. Oh, she had a baby like this is a this is a complete every birth is totally transformative. And we just are expected to take it in stride. Right? I think it makes sense. You think about it for a year. You know, it's a lot to internalize what happened, you know, how was that experience that they are almost re traumatized each year in the child's birthday, which is really complicated when they want to just enjoy their child's birthday. And then they're also having their own feelings about the trauma that they went through on the day that child was born. So I've seen that day was complex and then they experienced it again post EMDR and they were really able to be more present and joyful for their child and not re traumatized after their own birth experience.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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