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Narratives of traumatic birth: Quality and changes over time

Ayers, S., Radoš, S.N. and Balouch, S. (2015). Narratives of traumatic birth: Quality and changes over time. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 7(3), doi: 10.1037/a0039044

Abstract

Childbirth is a highly emotive event that can involve complications. Around 1% of births in the United Kingdom involve life-threatening complications to the mother (Waterstone, Bewley, & Wolfe, 2001) and 0.8% result in stillbirth or perinatal death (Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health [CEMACH], 2009). A review found that 3.1% of women report posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth (Grekin & O'Hara, 2014). The aim of this study was to examine whether narrative characteristics of traumatic birth were specific to women with PTSD or observed in all women who experience a highly emotive and potentially traumatic birth. Parturient women were matched for birth events, but either had severe PTSD symptoms (n = 22) or no, or very low, PTSD symptoms (n = 22). Women were interviewed about the birth 3 and 6 months postpartum, and their birth narratives were examined for content, coherence, and cognitive and perceptual processing. Results showed birth narratives became shorter and more coherent over time. Consistent with PTSD literature, birth memories were more likely to be recalled and involuntarily triggered in women with PTSD symptoms. However, women with PTSD symptoms had more coherent narratives, used more causal and fewer tentative words. These latter findings are inconsistent with research finding that PTSD is associated with fragmented or incoherent memories but are consistent with the view that highly emotive events result in improved memory (e.g., Berntsen, Willert, & Rubin, 2003). Possible reasons for this are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record
Publisher Keywords: Posttraumatic stress disorder, birth, narrative, memory
Subjects: R Medicine
Departments: School of Health Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/11896
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