Traumatic birth and childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder: International expert consensus recommendations for practice, policy, and research

Susan Ayers*, Antje Horsch, Susan Garthus-Niegel, Marianne Nieuwenhuijze, Annick Bogaerts, Katharina Hartmann, Sigfridur Inga Karlsdottir, Mirjam Oosterman, Gulcan Tecirli, Jonathan D. Turner, Joan Lalor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Research suggests 1 in 3 births are experienced as psychologically traumatic and about 4% of women and 1% of their partners develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. Aim: To provide expert consensus recommendations for practice, policy, and research and theory. Method: Two consultations (n = 65 and n = 43) with an international group of expert researchers and clinicians from 33 countries involved in COST Action CA18211; three meetings with CA18211 group leaders and stakeholders; followed by review and feedback from people with lived experience and CA18211 members (n = 238). Findings: Recommendations for practice include that care for women and birth partners must be given in ways that minimise negative birth experiences. This includes respecting women's rights before, during, and after childbirth; and preventing maltreatment and obstetric violence. Principles of trauma-informed care need to be integrated across maternity settings. Recommendations for policy include that national and international guidelines are needed to increase awareness of perinatal mental health problems, including traumatic birth and childbirth-related PTSD, and outline evidence-based, practical strategies for detection, prevention, and treatment. Recommendations for research and theory include that birth needs to be understood through a neuro-biopsychosocial framework. Longitudinal studies with representative and global samples are warranted; and research on prevention, intervention and cost to society is essential. Conclusion: Implementation of these recommendations could potentially reduce traumatic births and childbirth-related PTSD worldwide and improve outcomes for women and families. Recommendations should ideally be incorporated into a comprehensive, holistic approach to mental health support for all involved in the childbirth process.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen and Birth
Early online date8 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Birth
  • Maternity
  • Obstetric
  • Policy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Recommendations

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