Giving birth can bring up sexual trauma… so what can we do?

Every woman I have ever gotten to know, has a story of sexual abuse.

It could be date rape, it could be child molestation, it could be a series of “small” events like your friend’s cousin jabbing at your butt while you’re in line for food, or being called any number of sexualizing & objectifying labels.

We all know this is a part of life for women, to deal with some form of sexual abuse at some point.

What may be less commonly accepted, is that feelings associated with sexual trauma can resurface when a woman is going through pregnancy and giving birth.

“People, especially caregivers, need to understand that the connection exists. It’s really that simple.”

Adriane Knorr is a certified Birth Doula operating in Lane County, Oregon through her personal practice, The Beating Heart Doula.

Her online workshop, “Relight the Path,” provides training for birth workers to confidently deal with these issues with their clients, and provides a supportive forum for them to process their own sexual trauma.

Adriane told me more about the work she does and why you should care in the following Q&A.

I was so grateful to begin to learn about how the wounds we carry (literally the root of the word “trauma” in Latin means “wounds”) affect the way we birth

What inspired you to create the “Relight the Path” workshop?

I myself am I survivor of sexual assault and have experienced severe referred pain in my pelvis that doctors have never been diagnose. My doctors have also never asked me about my abuse history. I believe there is an extremely strong connection between sexual assault and many “undiagnosable” disorders. In America, doctors are rarely trained to recognize this connection and their patients suffer.
As a birth worker, I’m also able to recognize how previous assault can manifest itself in pregnancy, labor and postpartum. Once again, a connection that is often missed.
I grew up with a mom who worked in domestic violence and I had the privilege of learning so much from her. She has hosted many conferences and is using her knowledge to better those around her.
With her encouragement that I can help change the lives of others and with my knowledge of assault and birth work grew this new program!

Why is this program so important?

Sexual assault is such a prevalent issue and there are rarely avenues for healing as this is such a stigmatized topic. In order to lower our assault statistics, we need to start talking and teaching. The more information we have out there to promote healing, the more women will begin to trust their bodies again and raise conscious children. It’s time to stop the cycle of abuse and bring about a new era where every human being knows how to respond to “no”.

What is the main thing people need to understand about the connection between birth and sexual trauma?

People, especially caregivers, need to understand that the connection exists. It’s really that simple. They need to be able to recognize symptoms of sexual trauma and know how to communicate effectively with their clients/patients to bring about healing. So often, women just want to be heard. Telling your story is such an incredible part of healing and caregivers need to know how to listen and comment effectively when a woman does choose to disclose her story.

How widespread is sexual trauma in your experience among clients and also among birth workers themselves? 

I have had so many people, especially doulas, reach out to me after hearing about the workshop to tell me how they were sexually assaulted and how that eventually led them to pursue birth work. It takes a lot of chutzpah to disclose your history of abuse and most clients will only do so when they feel you are completely trustworthy. That being said, I have had a few of my clients tell me their stories right off the bat. Others only told me after I began to notice symptoms and eventually I brought the topic up with them.

Do you intend for your program to personally benefit birth workers who have suffered from sexual trauma?

I do. There is a portion of this workshop devoted to helping birth workers come to terms with their own abuse. This is a process that must be done before they can truly communicate help to their own clients/patients.

Overall, what do you hope to achieve?

I recognize that I am only one person and can’t change the whole world all by myself, but I believe I can help. The best way to help the world is to have as many people as possible trained to heal. My goal with this workshop is to help initiate that process.


26692871_10156505440361554_1488721831_oAdriane Knorr – The Beating Heart Doula

Adriane’s passion is helping women to understand their emotions as well as their incredible strength.  Adriane believes in bringing personal experiences into her work to provide real world experiences for all. She has been published by the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Gonzaga University for her work with Gendered Perceptions and Emotions of Intercourse and Trauma. In her free time she enjoys getting out into nature to explore wilderness trails, kayak through the waters, and training for half marathons.

Some Resources:
9 Resources for sexual assault survivors you should know about
Canadian Resource Center for Victims of Crime - Support for Women


Published by mamastobe

I founded Mamas To Be as a resource for savvy women who want to live healthy right now, and have babies one day. My personal motivation was knowing that I want to be a mom one day, and what I learned became a professional passion for supporting women, babies and families through the experience of birth.

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