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Mothers with post-traumatic stress disorder after traumatic childbirth struggled to survive and experienced nightmares, flashbacks, anger, anxiety, depression, and isolation

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Q What is the essence of mothers’ experiences of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after traumatic births?


Descriptive phenomenology.


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38 mothers (mean age 33 y, 32% primipara) from 4 countries (New Zealand, United States, Australia, and United Kingdom) who had experienced PTSD attributable to birth trauma (women reported that the diagnosis was made by a healthcare professional) and were willing to articulate their experiences. Length of time from birth trauma to study participation ranged from 6 weeks to 14 years.


Women were recruited through Trauma and Birth Stress, a charitable trust in New Zealand founded to support women who had experienced birth trauma and to educate healthcare professionals and the general public about PTSD after childbirth. Women were asked to describe in writing their experiences of PTSD after childbirth in as much detail as they wished. 2 women hand wrote and sent their stories by post; 36 submitted their stories as email attachments. The phenomenological analysis involved reading and rereading participants’ descriptions of PTSD after traumatic birth to describe the essence of the phenomenon, formulating the …

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  • For correspondence: Dr C T Beck, University of Connecticut School of Nursing, Storrs, CT, USA.

  • Source of funding: no external funding.