July 11, 2017

The Survivor’s Road to Parenthood - Part 2

We continue our series this week with Anita Butler. In this post, she shares some of the common reasons survivors of trauma struggle with conceiving.

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The First Stretch of the Road to Parenthood:  Fertility/Conception
How sexual abuse might affect this stage of the journey


You very well may have “worked through” a substantial amount of your wounds from the sexual abuse of your past.  Or, maybe it’s tucked so far away from your conscious awareness, you hardly think of it any more, even though you might have puzzling difficulties in your relationship emotionally and sexually - and it simply doesn’t occur to you how the dots connect between the abuse you experienced then, and the issues you’re dealing with now.  Your issues may be only emotional - or they may be physical, as well, with scar tissue from injuries or prior infections forming blocks to conception. 

The farther in the past your abuse and the work you’ve done, the more likely you’ll feel that you’re ready to move on with your life.  The good news is, that very well may be true!  And you may now be in a wonderful relationship, and have decided to start a family.  Or, you may be struggling with the thought of pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding, with your non-abused partner expressing his/her desire - and there’s now an awkwardness in your relationship that’s disturbing to you both.

Whatever the cause is for you, the result of it, so far, is what you don’t want:  reduced fertility or infertility. You may have been diagnosed by physical exam, which is actually the “best” news - because many of these conditions are correctible with today’s medical technology. The most frustrating diagnosis is
“unexplained infertility.”  What do you do with that??  If the cause is unexplained, how can you begin to take appropriate action?  You might jump right in to any number of fertility treatment options.  But if the answer were that simple, you could just go with IVF (in vitro fertilization), and be “one and done,” right?  But a quick look at the statistics will show that it just doesn’t work that way.

What are some possible explanations for unexplained fertility? 

Fertility is usually a function of overall health - mental/emotional AND physical.  Of course, the two are inextricably linked, with one’s mental and emotional states having physical effects, and physical conditions affecting one’s mental and emotional state.

Let’s take them one at a time:

In her article, “Psychological Trauma and Physical Health: A Psychoneuroimmunology Approach to Etiology of Negative Health Effects and Possible Interventions,” (whew!  That’s a mouthful, right??), Kathleen Kendal-Tackett describes the research on the effects of trauma on health.  The research affirms my personal and professional experience working with women who have survived childhood abuse, whether sexual or not:  There is a strong correlation between “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACEs) and a host of medical problems in adulthood, much of it related to systemic inflammation.  

Inflammation itself has a very important function, with pro-inflammatory cytokines sent to the site of a wound (for instance), serving the adaptive purpose of helping the body heal wounds and fight infection.  Many abuse survivors are in a heightened state of stress most, if not all the time. With the “fight or flight” hormones constantly elevated, the level of pro-inflammatory cytokines increases dramatically - but there’s no physical wound to heal. 

So you end up with “systemic inflammation” - which leads to such conditions as coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, chronic pain syndromes, premature ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, impaired immune function, and impaired wound healing - makes sense, right?  All those cytokines are circulating through the body instead of doing their job at the wound site. 

Similarly, people with PTSD who were studied (also, logically, would have systemic inflammation), were found to also have, in addition to the list above, gastrointestinal illnesses, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple-chemical sensitivity.  Why would it be surprising that a woman’s body would lack the “bandwidth” to conceive and carry a baby with all of that going on?

The other main component is the emotional blocks you might have.  Negative emotions can be widely diverse, ranging from depression to anxiety to hostility.  All of these states will increase systemic inflammation and reduce the strength and vitality of the immune system.  Again, the good news is that with competent, caring guidance, these troubling emotions and blocks can be discovered (yes, often there is a discovery process that yields surprising revelations about “what’s going on in there”) and released.

Then, there’s the baby that wants to come to you.  Don’t laugh!  Energetically, the embodiment of a soul is really a thing.  So imagine if you were a “future embryo” wanting to “land” in your mom’s body.  What would you want?  A body full of stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines? (I’m thinking not)  What would you be looking for?  A happy mom, with no greater desire than to snuggle with you, sing to you and play with you? Mmmm, yeah.  That’s what babies want.

In my work with women struggling to conceive, I’ve found such an inspiring level of commitment - physically and financially - to whatever they have to do to realize their dream of conceiving, carrying, giving birth and mothering.  I’ve also found lack of awareness around the importance of systemic inflammation and emotional blocks.  Once you know the roles they play in your fertility - not to mention your overall health and happiness - the “work/play” can begin! This work/play, done in a very safe “container,” may include any combination of health coaching, visualization, hypnotherapy, cognitive work, and various exercises to discover and release those blocks. And when blocks are released, miracles happen!

My loving wish for you is that you will be supported on your journey into motherhood, with all its potential challenges and frustrations. And may the growth and deep healing you experience be the foundation of many joyful, fulfilling mothering years.




Read Part 3: Pregnancy & Birth




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Anita has been serving women in the greater Sacramento area, from pregnancy through birth and breastfeeding for over twenty years as a birth and postpartum doula, HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (BA-IBCLC), and Clinical Hypnotherapist.  Her passion is to empower women, wherever in their journey they are, at a time in their lives when self-doubt and disempowerment are the most common experience.  She also believes that the way babies are conceived, carried and brought into the world MATTERS:  to the mothers, the fathers, and most of all, to the babies.  It is this passion that drives her to continue studying the science and refining her skills to her clients’ benefit.


Anita recently left Sacramento to join the Birth Education Center of San Diego, and is thrilled to now call San Diego “home!”




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