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Health-care practitioners' assessment and observations of birth trauma in mothers and partners

Delicate, A., Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460 & McMullen, S. (2020). Health-care practitioners' assessment and observations of birth trauma in mothers and partners. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, doi: 10.1080/02646838.2020.1788210


Background: Evidence shows that traumatic childbirth can cause ongoing distress, often referred to as birth trauma. This can have an impact on parents and the couple relationship, and consequently identifying and supporting parents with birth trauma is important to practice. Practitioners working with parents in the postnatal period may hold a key role in helping to identify birth trauma, but currently there is limited literature on how this occurs in practice.

Aim: To investigate the experiences of healthcare practitioners from the United Kingdom (UK) in assessment for birth trauma, perceived occurrence of birth trauma, and observed impact on parents and the couple relationship.

Methods: An online survey of UK practitioners working with parents in the first postnatal year. The survey measured assessment practice for birth trauma, perceptions of the incidence of parents affected by birth trauma, observed symptoms, and impact.

Results: A sample of 202 practitioners reported identifying birth trauma in 34.4% of mothers and 25.0% of partners. Assessment for birth trauma was only conducted for 50.3% of mothers and 25.9% of partners. The most observed symptoms were re-experiencing among mothers (87.1%) and avoidance among partners (50.9%). Birth trauma was perceived as impacting on the couple relationship for 29.8% of mothers and 26.9% of partners. Written responses provided more detailed observations of the impact of birth trauma.

Conclusion: Understanding how birth trauma may present differently in mothers and partners could support effective assessment. Once birth trauma is identified, parents require personalised support to help them cope with the impact.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology on 2 July 2020, available online:
Publisher Keywords: Birth trauma, assessment, parent, practitioner, relationship
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
Text - Accepted Version
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