UBC Graduate Research

Promoting perinatal healthcare by raising awareness of the multidimensional impacts of birth trauma : recommendations for family nurse practitioners Merat-Fournier, Anais


Background: One-third of women giving birth every year in Canada perceive they have experienced psychological birth trauma. While health researchers have focused on postnatal depression (PND) and postnatal psychosis, there is a growing recognition of other perinatal mental health conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) following traumatic childbirth experiences. However, the concept of birth trauma and its impact is still not well understood. This paper aims to raise awareness of birth trauma in primary care providers through education and presentation of screening tools and available interventions to prevent birth trauma and support patients who have experienced birth trauma. Methods: A literature search was undertaken within the last ten years, limited to manuscripts from Western countries, in English and peer-reviewed. A total of 35 articles were included, with most of the studies being primary source research. A professional poster and infographics were created to disseminate the findings generated from the current literature review. Findings: Women with pre-existing mental conditions, a history of sexual trauma, fear of childbirth, low perceived support system, and giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic had an increased risk of perceiving their birth as a traumatic experience. Furthermore, dynamics arising during childbirth such as severe psychological distress, a discrepancy between expectations and reality, insufficient communication with care providers, and feeling ignored by health care providers were identified as contributing factors for birth trauma. PTSD, PTS, breastfeeding and mother-infant interaction difficulties, as well as fear of subsequent childbirth were found to be the principal complications. Conclusion: Primary care providers are key professionals in screening the population at risk of perceiving their childbirth as traumatic, as well as identifying and providing early interventions to women with childbirth trauma in order to minimize the potential short and long-term consequences for the mothers and babies.

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