What is Trauma-Informed Health Care?
What Is Trauma-Informed Care?
April 6, 2022

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

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What Is Trauma-Informed Care?.
What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

When terrible things happen to us, our minds and bodies react—that’s what we call “trauma.” It’s our response to overwhelming events. As a survivor myself, I know how easily trauma shows up in routine medical care. A doctor visit can involve intimate exams, tough conversations and sometimes physical pain. Just being asked to take off your clothes can trigger bad memories, even if they happened a long time ago.

But, as a former doula, I know that trauma lives especially close to the surface in pregnancy and labor. Past traumas can be stirred up during everything from prenatal vaginal exams to painful contractions.

That’s why trauma-informed care is so important—throughout our lives, but especially when bringing a baby into the world. It’s an approach to medical care that recognizes the impact of trauma and avoids triggering experiences. You can use this directory to find a trauma-informed doctor who will work with you to create a care plan that makes you feel safe, comfortable and empowered.

What is trauma-informed care?

In pregnancy, a trauma-informed doctor or midwife might take certain steps to make you feel in control of your care—for example, giving you the option of pulling back a piece of clothing yourself instead of changing into a paper gown. Ahead of an exam, they might explain what body parts will be touched and why. This is part of “informed consent,” where a doctor details what they are going to do before they do it. Ahead of an ultrasound, they would explain each step of the process—from having you fold down the waste of your pants to squirting some blue gel onto your skin to gently moving the wand across your belly. This gives you the opportunity to say no to any part of the process or ask for tweaks, like applying the ultrasound gel yourself.

A trauma-informed doctor might also ask about your history and any specific triggers that could show up during prenatal office visits. (Keep in mind: You don’t need to share any more of your story than feels comfortable to you.) It’s a great idea to privately reflect on what your doctor can do to make you feel safe. You might find that you want the option of inserting the speculum yourself during prenatal vaginal exams, instead of having your doctor do it. Many trauma-informed doctors already do these kinds of things by default, but telling your doctor which specific practices are important to you can feel empowering.

In developing a birth plan with a trauma-informed doctor, you might talk about everything from laboring positions that feel least triggering to the possibility of refusing cervical exams unless absolutely necessary. This plan doesn’t stop at birth: it can include everything from how nurses talk to you while you recover from labor to preferences around feeding your baby, which itself can trigger memories of past abuse.

The whole experience from pregnancy to postpartum involves so many different and intense sensations in your body, as well as feelings of vulnerability and a loss of control. That’s why I made sure LOOM’s online pregnancy and postpartum program has a trauma-informed guide for expectant parents, which gently helps you to sort out potential triggers and decide on your birth preferences. It’s also why we launched our brand-new Symptom Checker, which explains various symptoms, like swelling and headaches, while unpacking the related impact of trauma. I like to think of what we’re doing as trauma-informed education.

The truth is that one in four people have survived childhood abuse and one in three have experienced violence. Trauma-informed care doesn’t represent a rare or unique need. It speaks directly to so many of us, but it’s not just for survivors. All of us can benefit from a tender, empathetic approach to our bodies and minds—especially as we bring another body and mind into the world.


Erica Chidi is the co-founder and CEO of LOOM, a platform empowering women through sexual and reproductive health education. She is also a doula, health educator and the author of the Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood.

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