Developing a woman-centered, inclusive definition of traumatic childbirth experiences: A discussion paper

Julia Leinweber*, Yvonne Fontein-Kuipers, Gill Thomson, Sigfríður Inga Karlsdóttir, Christina Nilsson, Anette Ekström-Bergström, Ibone Olza, Eleni Hadjigeorgiou, Claire Stramrood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Introduction: Many women experience giving birth as traumatic. Although women's subjective experiences of trauma are considered the most important, currently there is no clear inclusive definition of a traumatic birth to help guide practice, education, and research. Aim: To formulate a woman-centered, inclusive definition of a traumatic childbirth experience. Methods: After a rapid literature review, a five-step process was undertaken. First, a draft definition was created based on interdisciplinary experts’ views. The definition was then discussed and reformulated with input from over 60 multidisciplinary clinicians and researchers during a perinatal mental health and birth trauma research meeting in Europe. A revised definition was then shared with consumer groups in eight countries to confirm its face validity and adjusted based on their feedback. Results: The stepwise process confirmed that a woman-centered and inclusive definition was important. The final definition was: “A traumatic childbirth experience refers to a woman's experience of interactions and/or events directly related to childbirth that caused overwhelming distressing emotions and reactions; leading to short and/ or long-term negative impacts on a woman's health and wellbeing.”. Conclusions: This definition of a traumatic childbirth experience was developed through consultations with experts and consumer groups. The definition acknowledges that low-quality provider interactions and obstetric violence can traumatize individuals during childbirth. The women-centered and inclusive focus could help women to identify and validate their experiences of traumatic birth, offering benefits for practice, education, and research, as well as for policymaking and activism in the fields of perinatal mental health and respectful maternity care.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Birth published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.

Other keywords

  • obstetric violence
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • postpartum
  • subjective
  • traumatic childbirth


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