Childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder in couples: a qualitative study

Br J Health Psychol. 2007 Nov;12(Pt 4):491-509. doi: 10.1348/135910706X120627.


Objectives: Previous research has established that women can develop childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the effect of this on a couple's relationship has not been examined. This study aimed to look at the experience and impact of childbirth-related PTSD in women and their partners.

Design: This was a qualitative interview study of six couples, where at least one partner had clinically significant symptoms of childbirth-related PTSD.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted separately with each partner and interview transcripts subjected to thematic analysis.

Results: Analysis identified four themes with 18 subthemes as follows: (1) birth factors (pain, negative emotions in labour, perceived lack of control, lack of choice or lack of involvement in decision-making, restricted movement or physical restraint, and expectations not being met); (2) quality of care (information provision, staff factors, continuity of care and environment); (3) effects on relationship with partner (impact on physical relationship, communication within the relationship, negative emotions within the relationship, receiving or giving support from partner, coping together as a couple and overall effect on the relationship); and (4) effects on relationship with child (perceptions of the child and parent-baby bond).

Conclusions: This study suggests that PTSD may have a negative impact on the couple's relationship and the parent-baby bond.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic*