A birth is defined as traumatic if the woman was or believed she or her baby was in danger of injury or death, and she felt helpless, out of control, or alone, and can occur at any point in labor and birth (Beck, 2004a). It is important to recognize that it is the woman’s perception that determines the diagnosis, whether or not clinical staff or caregivers agree. Even though physical injury to mother or baby often occurs during a traumatic birth, a birth can still be traumatic without such physical injury. Unfortunately, clinical symptoms of full diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur for mothers andpartners following a traumatic birth, the effects of which impact attachment, parenting, and family wellness.
Current research has demonstrated rates of full Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to traumatic childbirth ranging from 5.6% (Creedy, Shochet, & Horsfall, 2000) to 9% (Beck, Gable, Sakala & Declercq, 2011). The rates of having experienced post-traumatic stress symptoms, but not a fully screened diagnosis of PTSD are as high as 18% (Beck, et al. 2011).
Studies have demonstrated common themes in the experiences of PTSD due to childbirth as: (a) perceived lack of communication by medical staff; (b) fear of unsafe care; (c) lack of choice regarding routine medical procedures; (d) lack of continuity of care providers; and (f) care being based solely on delivery outcome (Beck, 2004a). These experiences occur globally. Preliminary studies in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Nigeria have reported rates of PTSD from 1.25% to 14.9% (Beck, 2011). Long-term effects of PTSD secondary to childbirth include attachment and parenting difficulties (Bailham & Joseph, 2003).