Women’s experience of post-traumatic growth following a traumatic birth: an interpretive phenomenological analysis

Rhianna Ketley, Zoe Darwin, Ciara Masterson, Linda McGowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Approximately 3-5% of women experience post-traumatic stress disorder following birth; positive experiences that can follow traumatic birth are under-researched.

Aims and Objectives
To explore how women experience post-traumatic growth following a traumatic birth.

Methods
Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to explore experiences of women who self-identified as having found positive benefits through coping with a traumatic birth. Eight women who had birthed in the past five years in the UK were recruited online and interviewed face-to-face.

Results
Three superordinate themes were developed: “The total opposite to what I’d expected” (participants’ struggle to understand and integrate their birth experience in the postnatal period); “I see it a bit differently now” (processes experienced in coming to a place of growth); and “A much better place” (experienced growth ‘outcomes’).

Discussion
Faced with shattered assumptions whereby their birth experiences contrasted with their expectations, participants felt their identities as women and mothers were challenged. In overcoming these challenges, participants described actively striving to cope and make sense of their experience. Multiple factors facilitated this, notably partner support, telling their birth story, acknowledging the impact and developing a compassionate narrative. Although growth was experienced in ways commonly reported by survivors of challenging life events, some aspects appeared pertinent to birth trauma.

Conclusions
Widening our understanding of the range of experiences following traumatic birth and making these narratives public may offer hope for some women and families and inform health professionals’ education and practice. Further research would be needed before advocating interventions to foster post-traumatic growth.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Early online date27 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Apr 2022

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