The effects of childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder on women and their relationships: a qualitative study

Psychol Health Med. 2006 Nov;11(4):389-98. doi: 10.1080/13548500600708409.


There is converging evidence that 1%-2% of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of childbirth. The current study aimed to explore the long-term effects of childbirth-related PTSD on women, their relationship with their partner and their relationship with their child. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with six women who reported clinically significant PTSD after birth, ranging from 7 months to 18 years beforehand. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis. Childbirth-related PTSD was found to have wide-ranging effects on women and their relationships. Women reported changes in physical well-being, mood and behaviour, social interaction, and fear of childbirth. Women reported negative effects on their relationship with their partner, including sexual dysfunction, disagreements and blame for events of birth. The mother-baby bond was also seriously affected. Nearly all women reported initial feelings of rejection towards the baby but this changed over time. Long-term, women seemed to have either avoidant or anxious attachments with their child. It is concluded that childbirth-related PTSD can have severe and lasting effects on women and their relationships with their partner and children. Further research is needed to compare this to normal difficulties experienced by women after having children.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic*
  • United Kingdom