Exploring the process of writing about and sharing traumatic birth experiences online

Br J Health Psychol. 2015 May;20(2):243-60. doi: 10.1111/bjhp.12093. Epub 2014 Mar 12.


Objective: This study aimed to explore the experience of writing about a traumatic birth experience and sharing it online.

Method: Twelve women who had submitted their stories about traumatic birth experiences to the Birth Trauma Association for online publication were interviewed about their experiences. Women were interviewed shortly after writing but before posting and again 1 month after the story was posted online. All participants completed both interviews. These were transcribed and analysed using template analysis.

Results: Women described varied reasons for writing and sharing their stories, including wanting to help themselves and others. The process of writing was described as emotional, however was generally seen as a positive thing. Aspects of writing that were identified as helpful included organizing their experiences into a narrative, and distancing themselves from the experience.

Conclusion: Writing and posting online about a traumatic birth is experienced positively by women. It may be a useful self-help intervention and is worthy of systematic evaluation. The mechanisms through which writing is reported to have impacted as described in the interviews link to the mechanisms of change in cognitive-behavioural approaches to post-traumatic symptoms. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Some women develop post-traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms following birth. These can impact on both themselves and their family, yet these women may not seek professional help. Writing about a traumatic event may be a useful approach for reducing post-traumatic stress symptoms, but the impact of online sharing is unknown. What does this study add? This study demonstrates that women report benefits from writing about their birth experiences. Writing enabled organizing the experience into a narrative and distancing from the trauma, which was helpful. Sharing the story online was an emotional experience for participants, however was generally seen positively.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Narration*
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Writing*
  • Young Adult