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When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women

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When Survivors Give Birth is written for a mixed audience of maternity care professionals and para-professionals, mental health therapists and counselors, and women survivors and their families. The authors expertly and compassionately address the unusual and distressing challenges that arise for abuse survivors during the childbirth experience. The first section informs t When Survivors Give Birth is written for a mixed audience of maternity care professionals and para-professionals, mental health therapists and counselors, and women survivors and their families. The authors expertly and compassionately address the unusual and distressing challenges that arise for abuse survivors during the childbirth experience. The first section informs the reader of the impact of early sexual abuse on children, adults, and on all aspects of childbearing. The second section teaches skills in communication, self-help skills, counseling and psychotherapy techniques. The third covers clinical challenges and solutions for doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and others. Case histories throughout the book clarify and apply the content.


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When Survivors Give Birth is written for a mixed audience of maternity care professionals and para-professionals, mental health therapists and counselors, and women survivors and their families. The authors expertly and compassionately address the unusual and distressing challenges that arise for abuse survivors during the childbirth experience. The first section informs t When Survivors Give Birth is written for a mixed audience of maternity care professionals and para-professionals, mental health therapists and counselors, and women survivors and their families. The authors expertly and compassionately address the unusual and distressing challenges that arise for abuse survivors during the childbirth experience. The first section informs the reader of the impact of early sexual abuse on children, adults, and on all aspects of childbearing. The second section teaches skills in communication, self-help skills, counseling and psychotherapy techniques. The third covers clinical challenges and solutions for doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, and others. Case histories throughout the book clarify and apply the content.

30 review for When Survivors Give Birth: Understanding and Healing the Effects of Early Sexual Abuse on Childbearing Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    So important. I wish everyone who works with pregnant women could read this. A lot of times what we see as being "difficult" is a woman trying to protect herself due to abuse. Of course every pregnant woman should be treated with respect by her care-givers, but the potential that a woman may be carrying spoken or unspoken abuse makes this even more essential. This book is eye-opening to the issues connected with abuse in a woman's childbearing years, it explains the many ways it can be manifeste So important. I wish everyone who works with pregnant women could read this. A lot of times what we see as being "difficult" is a woman trying to protect herself due to abuse. Of course every pregnant woman should be treated with respect by her care-givers, but the potential that a woman may be carrying spoken or unspoken abuse makes this even more essential. This book is eye-opening to the issues connected with abuse in a woman's childbearing years, it explains the many ways it can be manifested, and has a wide range of advice for how to handle it. Sensitively and knowledgeably written.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    This book is an indispensable resource for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse and worries about the effects on their childbirth, any medical professional (including nurse practitioners, family physicians, but especially midwives and OB/GYN), and those who plan on supporting women during childbirth (like doulas or friends of a pregnant woman with sexual abuse history). Childbirth can be a daunting experience for any woman, but for woman with a history of sexual abuse, it can be re-traumatizi This book is an indispensable resource for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse and worries about the effects on their childbirth, any medical professional (including nurse practitioners, family physicians, but especially midwives and OB/GYN), and those who plan on supporting women during childbirth (like doulas or friends of a pregnant woman with sexual abuse history). Childbirth can be a daunting experience for any woman, but for woman with a history of sexual abuse, it can be re-traumatizing and can cause the woman to feel victimized by invasive procedures or providers who seem impatient with the anxiety, fears, or PTSD symptoms that can arise for the woman. The authors share ways that can promote a positive, healing, and empowering pregnancy, labor and delivery, and postpartum experience. Tools such as birth plans and self-help methods (such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization) are discussed in detail. There is also great information for women to understand how counseling and psychotherapy can also help them process some of the triggers and responses of their past abuse through the help of mental health professionals. There are a plethora of ideas that the pregnant woman, her partner, doula, midwife or OB/GYN, and any other person in her team can come together to add in her birth plan to help promote a positive labor and delivery, such as requesting only female medical personnel; limiting vaginal exams until medically necessary; using non-pharmacological pain control methods such as laboring in a tub, using a squat bar, and perineal massage to help avoid tears. This is a phenomenal resource whether you are a woman who has experienced sexual abuse or you care (either professionally or personally) for a woman who has experienced abuse and want to come alongside them as they prepare for childbirth.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Janet Ferguson

    As a therapist who currently has three pregnant clients who are CSA survivors, this book was INCREDIBLY helpful. It outlines potential triggers, risks, statistics (including risks for post partum problems), the latest research, and provides specific and useful tools for clients. The appendix includes templates for trigger plans, birth plans, and case histories. I think this would be a great book for any CSA survivor to read while planning her pregnancy or, with support, during her pregnancy. And As a therapist who currently has three pregnant clients who are CSA survivors, this book was INCREDIBLY helpful. It outlines potential triggers, risks, statistics (including risks for post partum problems), the latest research, and provides specific and useful tools for clients. The appendix includes templates for trigger plans, birth plans, and case histories. I think this would be a great book for any CSA survivor to read while planning her pregnancy or, with support, during her pregnancy. And, of course, I think any therapist working with pregnant or planning-to-be-pregnant survivors will benefit from most of the information provided.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cori

    This book was required reading for my childbirth educator certification. I'm so grateful it was on the list, and I hope every birth professional/paraprofessional reads it. I have never been a victim of abuse, physical, verbal or sexual, so understanding how a history of abuse may affect a woman undergoing the normal changes and challenges of pregnancy, labor, birth, and breastfeeding is invaluable information to me. Very well written, easy to understand, lots of fantastic resources in the append This book was required reading for my childbirth educator certification. I'm so grateful it was on the list, and I hope every birth professional/paraprofessional reads it. I have never been a victim of abuse, physical, verbal or sexual, so understanding how a history of abuse may affect a woman undergoing the normal changes and challenges of pregnancy, labor, birth, and breastfeeding is invaluable information to me. Very well written, easy to understand, lots of fantastic resources in the appendixes. I especially appreciated the nursing care plan cases/outcomes and all of the stories from survivors. I really would have had no idea of their struggles without reading this book

  5. 5 out of 5

    Raven

    A pivotal text for any birth worker. Reading this has changed not only how I talk to and approach survivors of sexual abuse, but all of my clients. Heart breaking as it reveals just how prevalent sexual abuse is, but also hopeful as it gives us tools to help survivors work toward healing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was a good book, but more geared towards the providers than the person giving birth.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Amazing insight to anyone working closely with survivors of sexual abuse.

  8. 5 out of 5

    p roper

    Well, I did it! 450 pages in four days. Well written, easy to read, with lots of good information. Sexual abuse is far more common than it should be and this book provides invaluable resources for working with those women.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Excellent. It took me a long time to get around to reading this and, in truth, the material is difficult but it should be required reading for anyone in the birth world for the long haul.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amy Marie

    I think this book could be incredibly useful for providers and birth partners, but the content could be very triggering for survivors. A large chunk of the book is the re-telling of others’ traumas.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kinsey Phifer

    This book is packed full of information on how to care for mothers who have experienced a sexual assault. One of the things I appreciate about this book is that it has examples of stories from survivors and providers. As a doula, I have bookmarked several pages to reference back to. As someone who also went through a sexual assault, I found many of the stories in this book to be validating. The effects of sexual assault and pregnancy/ childbirth are not talked about as often as they should. Thes This book is packed full of information on how to care for mothers who have experienced a sexual assault. One of the things I appreciate about this book is that it has examples of stories from survivors and providers. As a doula, I have bookmarked several pages to reference back to. As someone who also went through a sexual assault, I found many of the stories in this book to be validating. The effects of sexual assault and pregnancy/ childbirth are not talked about as often as they should. These experiences can have a deep emotional, and even physical impact on the mother when she becomes pregnant and gives birth. Sometimes it's hard for the mother and provider to make the connection between the two. This book details the different ways pregnancy and birth can be triggering of the past assault, and offers ways to help avoid retraumatization. I believe that this book is necessary, and that all providers caring for pregnant, birthing and postpartum moms should be strongly encouraged read it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    This was an intense book. I've had it on my list for several years, and on my bookshelf for a few. Finally I bit the bullet and read it. (It satisfies the challenge to read a book on a difficult topic.) Whoa the intensity of some sections. It is meant as a resource both for women survivors of sexual abuse/assault as well as for their caretakers and partners. That being said, it was more particularly directed towards caretakers. Some of the data is outdated (which was a relief to me, regarding th This was an intense book. I've had it on my list for several years, and on my bookshelf for a few. Finally I bit the bullet and read it. (It satisfies the challenge to read a book on a difficult topic.) Whoa the intensity of some sections. It is meant as a resource both for women survivors of sexual abuse/assault as well as for their caretakers and partners. That being said, it was more particularly directed towards caretakers. Some of the data is outdated (which was a relief to me, regarding the hospital experience for birth mothers). But there was sound information presented. I feel like this book brought something we don't talk about out in the open so those concerns and issues could be properly and adequately addressed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This book was written for three audiences - providers, psychotherapists, and survivors. That is a broad range of audiences who require varying forms and levels of information, but it was all put together into one book which had pros but also a lot of cons. This book could have been split into categories specifically for each of the target audiences so it was more apparent who the information is primarily intended for. As it is currently written, the audiences are spoken to in interwoven segments This book was written for three audiences - providers, psychotherapists, and survivors. That is a broad range of audiences who require varying forms and levels of information, but it was all put together into one book which had pros but also a lot of cons. This book could have been split into categories specifically for each of the target audiences so it was more apparent who the information is primarily intended for. As it is currently written, the audiences are spoken to in interwoven segments that draws your attention when you're the audience, and then looses you for a while when you are not. I did appreciate much of the information in this book with examples and practical suggestions, and overall would recommend it to others.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Darby Morris

    This more recent book by the same authors as The Doula Book and The Birth Partner discusses their observations of working with a wide variety of birthing individuals, many with unfortunate sexual abuse histories. It mentions the ways in which sexual abuse affects children, pregnancy, relationships and postpartum as well as what birth workers can do to help birthing individuals with this history with anecdotes dispersed throughout the book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Lang

    Great book and will recommend for my clients who are survivors of SA.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

    A difficult but necessary read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alorah Welti

    Very good resource book. The chapter by the nurses is completely useless and redundant which is why I've docked a star. I recommend for every birth worker. Very good resource book. The chapter by the nurses is completely useless and redundant which is why I've docked a star. I recommend for every birth worker.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth M.

    When Survivors Give Birth Penny Simkin, PT and Phyllis Klaus, CSW, MFT I can’t think of many books, of any genre, that I would say are truly revolutionary but When Survivors Give Birth is absolutely one of them. This book is a sweeping compendium of everything a provider might need in order to deal more effectively and compassionately with a pregnant woman who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. From triggers in pregnancy to challenges in the postpartum period with breastfeeding, body image o When Survivors Give Birth Penny Simkin, PT and Phyllis Klaus, CSW, MFT I can’t think of many books, of any genre, that I would say are truly revolutionary but When Survivors Give Birth is absolutely one of them. This book is a sweeping compendium of everything a provider might need in order to deal more effectively and compassionately with a pregnant woman who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. From triggers in pregnancy to challenges in the postpartum period with breastfeeding, body image or dealing with the affects of a traumatic birth, the authors have meticulously researched the issue of childhood sexual abuse and how it affects pregnant women and new moms. Careful attention is also paid in helping the survivor understand the positive role that a doula can play in her childbirth experience as well as how to get providers to “recognize the needs and fears beneath the surface,” (139). In my mind the book has a dual target audience: survivors themselves and also providers who deal with survivors. Survivors themselves might find the personal “stories” in When Survivors Give Birth. While they may be triggering to some survivors, their value is still immense, especially for providers who, again, may be unaware of how survivors might “look” or why they make the decisions they do. The stories provide a practical, real life view of what is being discussed in the chapter and how that impacts the pregnant woman. As a childbirth educator, postpartum doula, trauma birth counselor and educational trainer, there is much information for me to takeaway from the book. And that’s coming from someone who has worked with survivors of intimate partner violence for over ten years. Traditionally there hasn’t been much work done with pregnant survivors or new mom survivors of any kind of abuse. Chapters like “How survivors can reduce the risk of a traumatic birth” include useful advice like, “risks can be reduced if the abuse survivor can identify and express her needs or even resolve some troubling emotional issues before the birth,” (emphasis mine 63). This is so important to be aware of. One of the strongest pieces of the book is the section that focuses on the postpartum period. That’s a time when traditionally, the woman gets little or no attention from providers (“come back and see me in 6 weeks,”) but which is a time of great vulnerability and change for even non-survivors. Simkin and Klaus meticulously explore the connection between postpartum mood disorders, for example, and survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Postpartum mood disorder screening for even non-survivors of abysmal but my hope would be that if more providers were to read this book, they might recognize all the more the importance on appropriate screening AND follow-up. When Survivors Give Birth is the definitive reference for anyone who deals with pregnant women in any capacity: from birth doula to ob/gyn. It is the sort of book that one returns to again and again, both for basics like statistics, symptoms and practical tips on how to deal more sensitively to the needs of survivors of childhood sexual abuse but also for basics such as creative problem solving, better active listening and additional resources.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    I read this when I was taking an extra course towards pregnancy massage. I met and worked with the author Penny as well during the 40+ hour course. This book was a great for all MTs because when you have a pregnant client on your table, you have to remember the statistics of how many woman are and have been sexually violated. Pregnancy can trigger many survivors and can cause an array of body discomfort which leads them to a pregnancy massage therapist. As a therapist myself, I have seen sexuall I read this when I was taking an extra course towards pregnancy massage. I met and worked with the author Penny as well during the 40+ hour course. This book was a great for all MTs because when you have a pregnant client on your table, you have to remember the statistics of how many woman are and have been sexually violated. Pregnancy can trigger many survivors and can cause an array of body discomfort which leads them to a pregnancy massage therapist. As a therapist myself, I have seen sexually abused pregnant woman and have worked on them in my practice, and am fully aware of even specific parts of the body causing full on triggers for the client, but they may not understand why they are reacting the way they are on the table during a massage (crying, laughing uncontrollably, shaking, etc). This book was very informative, and would even be a great read for family or friends who have a survivor in their life. It will give you some insight to what they may be going through during their pregnancy and as a survivor.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Extremely useful and well-thought out book. A great reference for survivors and care professionals.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Incredible book! This book should be a required reading for all medical professionals. I highly recommend survivors, health professionals, counselors, therapists...etc to take the time to read this book. I am so glad I did. Now, I know ways to incorporate what I have learned from this book in my RN career.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Koz

    This one is more for the clinician than the patient. It definitely covered some things that were relevant and helpful to me, and they would've been even more helpful while I was pregnant. But overall, I think the info is better suited for helping the OB/midwife care for the survivor. I did feel reassured in some ways, so it's worth a look if you're expecting or one day planning to TTC. This one is more for the clinician than the patient. It definitely covered some things that were relevant and helpful to me, and they would've been even more helpful while I was pregnant. But overall, I think the info is better suited for helping the OB/midwife care for the survivor. I did feel reassured in some ways, so it's worth a look if you're expecting or one day planning to TTC.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I found this book extremely helpful. Being that I was sexually abused, giving birth to my son harder then I ever imagined it would be. Thank you for an amazing book!

  24. 4 out of 5

    jonny diane - Professional Wedding Officiant

    Great resource book for anyone providing care for birthing mothers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rivka

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christina Kimont

  27. 5 out of 5

    Angela

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura Simpson

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alison

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robin Gray-Reed

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