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What are women stressed about after birth?

Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460, Crawley, R., Webb, R. , Button, S., Thornton, A., Smith, H., Bradley, R., Lee, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-3509-1569, Moore, D., Field, A., Eagle, A. & Gyte, G. (2019). What are women stressed about after birth?. Birth, 46(4), pp. 678-685. doi: 10.1111/birt.12455


Having a baby is associated with a variety of stressors, change, and adjustment. This study aimed to identify what women find stressful during the early postpartum period in contemporary Western society.

Women (n = 148) 6‐12 weeks postpartum wrote anonymously about a situation they found stressful as part of the Health after Birth Trial (HABiT) of expressive writing. Transcripts were analyzed for categories of stressors and cross‐cutting themes.

Five categories of stressors were identified. Stressors in pregnancy, labor, and the early postpartum period (49.3%) included physical and emotional difficulties, and insensitive treatment by health professionals. Stressors related to adjusting to life with a baby (35.8%) included difficulties coping with a new baby, parenting, juggling responsibilities, changes to physical health, and loneliness. Stressors related to the baby's health (32.4%) included infant digestive problems, acute health problems, long‐term impact, and neonatal intensive care unit experiences. Stressors related to breastfeeding (23.7%) included pressure to breastfeed, feeling like a ‘bad mum’ for not breastfeeding, or wanting to breastfeed and not being able to. Other stressors related to changing relationships (18.2%): with their partner, children, and other family members. Cross‐cutting themes that emerged in different stressor categories were women making negative self‐appraisals (eg, a bad mum, failure), feeling guilty, and lack of support from others.

Our findings emphasize the importance of exploring stressors and psychological well‐being with women to provide support, help women's adjustment postpartum, and ensure interventions are offered when appropriate.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Ayers, S, Crawley, R, Webb, R, Button, S, Thornton, A; the HABiT collaborative group. What are women stressed about after birth? Birth. 2019; 00: 1– 8., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Publisher Keywords: birth, postpartum, stress
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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