Childbirth Workshop Teaches Compassion for Abuse Survivors

Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus

Although it is estimated that one in four women has experienced childhood sexual abuse in the United States, the challenges these survivors face during the perinatal period remain among the least understood for caregivers and other providers.

In an effort to better understand how to care for women who have a history of unresolved trauma, Bastyr University's Simkin Center for Allied Birth Vocations is offering "When Survivors Give Birth," a workshop February 4-5, 2012, taught by two pioneers of the birth vocations field, Penny Simkin, PT, and Phyllis Klaus, MFT, LCSW.

"If you are working with anybody in their childbearing years, you will be working with sexual abuse survivors," says Annie Kennedy, Simkin Center director. "Whether you are going to care for those people adequately and compassionately and help them take steps toward healing depends on how much you understand this issue and learn the skills to work with women."

Penny Simkin, a physical therapist who has helped revive the art of continuous care in childbirth and who also is the namesake of Bastyr's Simkin Center, and Klaus, a licensed marriage and family therapist and social worker, also co-wrote the book When Survivors Give Birth.

"By combining physical therapy and psychotherapy, our goal is to integrate different ways to meet the needs of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and be sensitive to issues that may come up during pregnancy and birth," Simkin says. "We also hope to help our students learn specific techniques to deal with those issues and strengthen the woman and empower her."

During the two-day workshop, Simkin and Klaus will cover both the mental and physical components of a woman during and after her pregnancy. The class is geared toward students from various disciplines, including maternity care, mental health and allied providers.

"What we want to do with this workshop is to make people aware of the issue," says Annie Kennedy, Simkin Center director. "Then it can provide them with skills that they can use in their practice with women, whatever that may be."

Research on doulas, who provide nonmedical support to a woman and her family throughout the pregnancy process, has shown that compassionate care and knowledgeable practitioners have profound long-term results for women and their babies.

For more information or to register for the two-day class, which will take place at Bastyr's Kenmore campus, please visit the course listing.