Brown skinned woman's cheek is touching an infant's head. They both are smiling

Using the Sensory System to Heal After Birth Trauma

Somatic approaches use techniques that relate to the body—dancing, singing, breathing, acting, lying down—to help you thrive. One of the elements of somatic work revolves around working with your sensory system.

Sensations and Birth Trauma

After a traumatic birth, your body has encoded somatic memories of the fearful moments during and immediately after. You may notice these are sensory triggers, for example the smell of the perfume your nurse was wearing or the texture of the blanket draped over you and your baby immediately after birth. 

There are also internal sensations that act like triggers after birth trauma as well. For example, period cramps may call upon sensory memories of birth or a full bladder may remind you of being pregnant. These are all encoded in your sensory system, some of which you may be able to recall mentally, and some of which you may not be able to recall in your mind at all.

As you reintegrate into life after the birth, you may notice residual changes to the sensory system that affect your day-to-day life: sensitivity to light or sound, dislike for certain textures or temperatures, muted flavors on the tongue, or feeling constantly on alert.

Working with the Sensory System After Birth Trauma

Trauma-sensitive approaches to birth trauma healing focus on restoring functionality and balance to the sensory system while processing the sensory memories with at least as much importance as cognitive memories. This means gently reintegrating external and internal sensations into your conscious awareness without triggering any alarms so that you can slowly begin to experience your internal and external world as it is and not through the lens of threat. 

This is often mistaken as mindfulness—chew slowly and taste your food—when, in fact, it’s actually more about activating and deactivating your senses. For example, many people who experience birth trauma cannot taste their food very well. Instead of jumping to more intense flavors to force-feel the flavors, we use the other senses to coax the gustatory sense back online while addressing any sensory memories that come up at the same time.

The foundational somatic practices we teach in the Ruvelle Experience begin with the sensory system because we’ve found it to be the gentlest and most non-triggering approach to healing after the fears you experienced during your birth.

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