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

Leinweber, Julia; Fontein?Kuipers, Yvonne; Thomson, Gill; Karlsdottir, Sigfridur Inga; Nilsson, Christina; Ekstr�m?Bergstr�m, Anette; Olza, Ibone; Hadjigeorgiou, Eleni; Stramrood, Claire


Julia Leinweber

Gill Thomson

Sigfridur Inga Karlsdottir

Christina Nilsson

Anette Ekstr�m?Bergstr�m

Ibone Olza

Eleni Hadjigeorgiou

Claire Stramrood


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 respecful maternity care.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 8, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 11, 2022
Publication Date 2022-12
Deposit Date Apr 11, 2022
Publicly Available Date Apr 14, 2022
Journal Birth
Print ISSN 0730-7659
Electronic ISSN 1523-536X
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 4
Pages 687-696
Keywords obstetric violence; postpartum; post-traumatic stress disorder; subjective; traumatic childbirth
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Developing a woman-centered, inclusive definition of traumatic childbirth experiences: A discussion paper (658 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
© 2022 The Authors. Birth published by Wiley Periodicals LLC

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