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Postpartum PTSD versus an awe-inspiring life experience: The consequences of interrupting birthing consciousness

My talk focuses on the riddle of the extreme ends of the birth experience. On one end are women who experience relatively successful childbirth as traumatic and suffer from PP-PTSD. On the other end are women who experience childbirth as a highly positive, life-altering event. I offer that both extreme ends can be understood from an evolutionary point of view through the phenomena of "birthing consciousness," which is a fragile psycho-physical state of focus and retreat that happens during physiological birth. When this state is uninterrupted, there are more chances for a natural process of birth. At the end of an undisturbed natural delivery, women report 'natural high' sensations. However, interruptions to the birthing consciousness state stop the birth from progressing. I claim that the fragility of birthing consciousness, which was a useful adaptation in evolutionary times (postponing childbirth until the threat passed), became a maladaptation in the contemporary typical birth environment.Thus, interruptions to birthing consciousness bare different consequences in evolutionary times and in current hospital settings. My evolutionary approach offers a new direction for understanding PP-PTSD and a path for future research concerning its prevention.

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