Resources to help avoid and deal with traumatic birth experiences in Philadelphia

How to make the start of a new life as trauma-free as possible.

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Dre Reed / Billy Penn
BALA CYNWYD, PA - JAN 12, 2019:  Courtenay Harris Bond and her husband Jeffery Bond stand in their renovated kitchen after a tree on their property fell on their home. "CREDIT: Will Figg for The Wall Street Journal"
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It’s common for families to experience trauma during the modern birthing process.

Traumatic birthing experiences can range from something as common as an emergency c-section to something as serious as the loss of a newborn. It depends on the individual family. People often blame themselves, or try to bury the emotions they feel.

With counseling not often part of standard hospital protocol — and if it is, not always covered by health insurance — it’s hard to know where to turn for help.

Yet these experiences can have effects that last for years. They can lead to the development postpartum depression or of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in either or both of the parents, which affects their ability to properly care for and raise the baby. They can also lead the decision not to have another child at all.

After Billy Penn published a report on the situation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and beyond, several people reached out to share their own experiences, and also to offer help.

We’ve compiled this guide of local resources and advice for families who have experienced a traumatic birth, or who want to prepare for the birthing experience.

Mother Baby Connections

3141 Chestnut St.; 215-553-7128

Run by Drexel’s Psychological Services Center, this intensive outpatient program offers individual and group therapies to assist mothers and to help them feel better about being with their babies and partners. The program also trains new mental health professionals and conducts research to find the best ways to help pregnant and postpartum mothers achieve well-being.

Postpartum Support International

800-944-4773

This national organization offers a toll-free call-in line as well as text helplines in English and Spanish for questions and discussions about perinatal mental health. It also organizes online support groups, and has educational resources for families and providers. There’s a directory of local providers if you’re looking for something face to face.

Maternity Care Coalition

3401 I Street, Suite 408; 267-773-5130

Operating since 1980, this nonprofit offers support services through MOMobile, a home visiting program that provides free support and education to help families with the changes and challenges that come with pregnancy and parenting. There are physical offices in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware counties.

Oshun Family Center

505 Old York Rd, Suite 107, Jenkintown; 267-808-2649

This Jenkintown-based practice is run by Saleemah McNeil, a certified therapist and trained doula who had her own traumatic birthing experience. The organization, which partners with Penn Medicine and Temple Medicine, as well as the City of Philadelphia, offers assistance building a care team as well as pre- and post-birth therapy, with a focus on helping Black residents.

Turning Points for Children

415 S. 15th St.; 215-875-8200

Run out of the city’s Public Health Management Corporation, this Center City-based operation helps connect children and their caregivers with everything from mental health care to parenting programs to workforce readiness and early childhood education.

Solutions for Women

700 Spruce St., Garfield Duncan Building, Suite B3; 215-829-5046

At its historic, first-in-the-nation campus in Washington Square West, Pennsylvania Hospital runs this program that offers breastfeeding counseling and childbirth and parenting classes.

Family Practice Counseling Network

At four clinics located all over the city, this program from Resources for Human Development offers trauma-informed therapy with perinatal social workers.

‘Our Babies, Ourselves’

Several caregivers recommend this 2011 book by Meredith Small, which carries the subtitle “How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent.”

Hire a doula

A Doula is a trained professional who provides physical, emotional and informational support before, during and shortly after childbirth, according to DONA International, the main Doula organization. Trials have shown this improves emotional and physical outcomes for not just the mother, but also for the infant and the rest of the family. Prices and services vary, and DONA has a directory you can search.

Seek hospitals with a certified nurse midwife

A certified nurse-midwife is a professional who cares for the medical needs of a laboring person and their baby, and over 90% of them work in hospitals. When employed there, they can prescribe medication, perform procedures, and often provide routine antepartum and gynecological care. In Pennsylvania, this requires the support of their collaborating physician. Find one by searching the directory at the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

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