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A survey of perceived traumatic birth experiences in an Irish maternity sample - prevalence, risk factors and follow up

Nagle, U., Naughton, S., Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460 , Cooley, S., Duffy, R. M. & Dikmen-Yildiz, P. (2022). A survey of perceived traumatic birth experiences in an Irish maternity sample - prevalence, risk factors and follow up. Midwifery, 113, article number 103419. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2022.103419


OBJECTIVES: To establish the prevalence and correlates of a subjectively traumatic birth experience in an Irish maternity sample.

DESIGN: A questionnaire routinely provided to all women prior to hospital discharge post-birth was amended for data collection for this study. Two additional questions seeking information about women's perceptions of their birth were added and analysed. Women who described their birth as traumatic and agreed to follow-up, received a City Birth Trauma Scale (Ayers et al., 2018) at subsequent follow-up (6 to 12 weeks postpartum). Demographic, obstetric, neonatal variables and factors associated with birth trauma were collected from electronic maternity records retrospectively.

SETTING: A postnatal ward in an Irish maternity hospital which provides postnatal care for public maternity patients.

PARTICIPANTS: Postpartum women (N=1154) between 1 and 5 days postpartum.

MEASUREMENTS & FINDINGS: Participants completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) (Cox et al., 1987) with two additional questions about birth trauma. Eighteen percent (n=209) of women reported their birth as traumatic. Factors associated with reporting birth as traumatic included a history of depression, raised EPDS scores (>12), induction of labour, combined ventouse/forceps birth, and postpartum haemorrhage. Of these 209 women, 134 went on to complete the City Birth Trauma Scale (Ayers et al., 2018). The average score was 3.84 and 6 of this sample (4%) reached the threshold for postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

KEY CONCLUSIONS: This study identified a prevalence of 18% of women experiencing birth as traumatic and the potentially important role of a current and past history of depression, postpartum haemorrhage, induction of labour and operative vaginal birth in defining a traumatic birth experience. The majority of women were resilient to birth trauma, few developed PTSD , but a larger cohort had significant functional impairment associated with sub-clinical postpartum PTSD symptoms.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Maternity care providers should be aware of the risk factors for traumatic birth. Introducing a trauma-informed approach amongst midwives and maternity care providers in the postnatal period may help to detect emerging or established persisting trauma-related symptoms. For women with sub-clinical postpartum PTSD symptoms a detailed enquiry may be more effective in identifying postpartum PTSD at a later postnatal stage e.g., at six weeks postpartum. Maternity services should provide ongoing supports for women who have experienced birth trauma.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Publisher Keywords: birth trauma, postpartum PTSD, Ireland, perinatal, prevalence, risk factors, traumatic birth, PP-PTSD
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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