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Postnatal debriefing: Have we thrown the baby out with the bathwater?

Meades, R., Pond, C., Ayers, S. & Warren, F. (2011). Postnatal debriefing: Have we thrown the baby out with the bathwater?. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 49(5), pp. 367-372. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2011.03.002


Postnatal debriefing is offered by 78% of maternity services in the UK despite little evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that it is effective. RCTs in this area have applied debriefing as a prophylactic to all or high risk women, rather than as a treatment for women who request it. This pragmatic trial therefore evaluated existing postnatal debriefing services that provide debriefing as a treatment for women who request it. Forty-six women who met criterion A for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and requested debriefing 1.3 to 72.2 months (median 16 weeks) postpartum completed measures of depression, PTSD, support and negative appraisals of the birth before and one month after debriefing. Women were compared with others who gave birth in the same hospitals during the same time period (n=34), who met criterion A for PTSD but had not requested debriefing. Results showed PTSD symptoms reduced over time in both groups but greater decreases were observed in women who attended debriefing. Debriefing also led to reduction in negative appraisals but did not affect symptoms of depression. Therefore, results suggest providing debriefing as a treatment to women who request or are referred to it may help to reduce symptoms of PTSD.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: debriefing, PTSD, depression, birth, postnatal
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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