Effects Of Childbirth On Rape Victims

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Childbirth and rape. Two completely different situations with polar opposite emotions attached to them. It would be unsettling to ever try to imagine how the two would work together, but have you ever stopped to think about what happens when these worlds collide? How does childbirth affect rape victims?

First of all let’s discuss the concepts of both of these topics. Childbirth is defined as “ the ending of a pregnancy by one or more babies leaving a woman's uterus by vaginal passage or Caesarean section.” Essentially it is when a woman gives birth and brings a new life into the world after being pregnant.

Women react differently to childbirth and the process of pregnancy as a whole. Different women also experience an array of both physical and emotional effects after and during childbirth. Some say they pain is as intense as “menstrual cramps multiplied by a million” but ultimately the whole process was worth it once they experienced the joy that came with holding their child in their hands for the first time.

However, some women experience what is know as Postpartum depression (PPD). “Some of your hormones go from the highest they ever will be to the lowest, just before delivery to just after,” says Ann Dunnewold, a Dallas psychologist and co-author of ‘Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide’. Right after giving birth, your estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically, which can contribute to the “baby blues” PPD is a serious form of depression that a woman can experience after giving birth.

It brings about physical, emotional and behavioural changes. It can be so severe that it might result in the mother harming herself or her child. It's not the outcome you're used to is it? The statistics on PPD show that “One recent study found that 1 in 7 women may experience PPD in the year after giving birth. With approximately 4 million live births occurring each year in the United States, this equates to almost 600,000 postpartum depression diagnoses.”

Once a mother gives birth there is a release of oxytocin in her system which essentially activates the behaviour of a mother. One of these behaviours is recognizing any danger her child may be facing. Consequently, this results in anxiety which affects your mental health. Hormones released post pregnancy can have effects that cause chain reactions in a mother’s body.

Now let’s get into the background of rape and rape victims. Rape is defined as “ a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent.” Rape can take a toll on the emotional, mental and physical state of a woman. Rape victims can suffer and experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which occurs with people who have been through traumatic experiences. PTSD causes a person to have intense thoughts and feelings relating to a traumatic situation they’ve been in, such as rape.

Depression, Suicidal thoughts/attempts, vulnerability, trust issues, helplessness and the list goes on, are all after effects that a rape victim could experience. These affect how the victim lives their life from that point forward and can be detrimental if they are not given the proper care and help afterwards.

As we all know, unprotected sexual intercourse between a male and a female has a possibility of resulting in pregnancy so it’s a given that one of the products of rape can be pregnancy. This can cause a lot of complications for the mother/victim and with these complications comes choices that she must make in regards to the pregnancy.

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There are three choices that the victim has, she can choose to abort the pregnancy, continue with the pregnancy then give the child up for adoption/place the child in foster care or she can continue the pregnancy and parent the child. It’s important for the pregnancy to be detected as early as possible that way the victim is able to have all of these options available.

Experiencing a traumatic event such as rape can completely change a victims life and the course of their life as a whole such as pregnancy as a result. So how do you think a rape victim would be able to deal with another life changing experience such as childbirth?

A rape survivor during the birthing process is a sensitive, mentally and physically painful situation. The child birthing experience is an invasive process quite obviously since mothers are exposed to strangers such as doctors and nurses that are trying to assist during the delivery. However, for a rape victim the process may not go as smoothly due to the traumatic experience of rape that they have already encountered. In the course of the delivery, the doctors insert their hands in the mother’s vaginal area in order to deliver the baby. The woman is now forced to rehash the traumatic memories of the rape itself since it is a process whereby she is completely exposed.

“Throughout labour and her baby son’s first few hours of life, images of her rapist’s face and of the rape itself continuously flashed through her mind. With vaginal examinations being carried out, contractions forcing her out of control of her own body, and strangers constantly touching her without her consent, she began remembering and reliving the rape that she thought she had left behind many years before.”

This is a real life account taken of a woman named Sarah. Sarah, who is a rape victim, described her birthing experience as the second most traumatic experience she had ever faced, the first being her encounter with her rapist. Due to the distress she went through during birth she suffered for months, she did not attend any of her neonatal appointments which put her baby’s health at risk. Neonatal appoiuntments are for premature babies that need extra help while their bodies go through the growing process that they missed in the womb of their mother.

If we combine all the effects caused by rape and childbirth into one we can see how much of a challenge birth could be for a rape victim. One key factor of the prolonged distress in Sarah's case is the fact that she felt she had no one to talk to about what she was facing. During her pregnancy she anticipated the distress she would face attending antenatal appointments so she avoided them. This, just like after she gave birth, put her health and her baby’s health at risk.

“Sarah described how she was tensing up so much due to the flashbacks she was experiencing that she managed to stop her own contractions – which could have been triggered by a doctor carrying out a vaginal examination without her consent.” From this statement alone I’m sure you can try to imagine the amount of mental and physical pain she must have been in to be able to stop her own contractions. Luckily for Sarah she was able to eventually find help at the “My Body Back Project”. The project was created by Pavan Amara to help women who have survived sexual violence to go for cervical screenings. That’s where she was able to share her birthing experience with the other survivors.

After choosing to continue a pregnancy as a rape victim and going through the birthing process the next in sequence is parenting. The first probable effect is emotional. Having experienced sexual assault as a mother affects her ability to handle her emotions or regulate them in tense situations, which is quite hard to avoid raising children. A mother's inability to handle these types of situations and her emotions has a chain reaction on her child/children. In some cases the child doesn't get completely emotionally developed if their mother detaches herself emotionally from her child during tense situations such as mid-tantrum.

Another outcome of a survivor parenting is that she may transfer her fears onto her children and become overprotective. On the brighter side, conversations about consent are had earlier, more diligently and are more informative since the mother has experienced non consensual relations.

As a society, in order to help victims of rape and their journey with childbirth, support is extremely important and has been shown as a key factor in helping victims recover and responsibly make decisions in regards to their own health and their child’s health.

“Throughout the 36-hour delivery period, a midwife also told her “to grow up, to get on with it, that women all over the world do it” This is another quote taken from the account of Sarah’s experience.

Obviously in the predicament Sarah was in, a reaction like this must have been terribly unhelpful. The only external help she could have received that would have been effective would have been support but among other things this was also missing. This helps to reaffirm my point in saying support is important and we all have to do our part in helping our fellow women deal with such experiences as comfortably as possible.

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Effects Of Childbirth On Rape Victims. (2021, April 19). WritingBros. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/effects-of-childbirth-on-rape-victims/
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Effects Of Childbirth On Rape Victims. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/effects-of-childbirth-on-rape-victims/> [Accessed 18 Jun. 2024].
Effects Of Childbirth On Rape Victims [Internet]. WritingBros. 2021 Apr 19 [cited 2024 Jun 18]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/effects-of-childbirth-on-rape-victims/
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