Background: Childbirth is a challenging and emotive experience that is accompanied by strong positive and/or negative emotions. Memories of birth may be associated with how women cognitively process birth events postpartum and potentially their adaptation to parenthood. Characteristics of memories for birth may also be associated with postnatal psychological wellbeing. This paper reports the development and evaluation of a questionnaire to measure characteristics of memories of childbirth and to examine the relationship between memories for birth and mental health.
Methods: The Birth Memories and Recall Questionnaire (BirthMARQ) was developed by generating items from literature reviews and general measures of memory characteristics to cover dimensions relevant to childbirth. Fifty nine items were administered to 523 women in the first year after childbirth (M = 23.7 weeks) as part of an online study of childbirth. Validity of the final scale was checked by examining differences between women with and without probable depression and PTSD.
Results: Principal components analysis identified 23 items representing six aspects of memory accounting for 64% of the variance. These were: Emotional memory, Centrality of memory to identity, Coherence, Reliving, Involuntary recall, and Sensory memory. Reliability was good (M alpha = .80). Women with probable depression or PTSD reported more emotional memory, centrality of memories and involuntary recall. Women with probable depression also reported more reliving, and those with probable PTSD reported less coherence and sensory memory.
Conclusion: The results suggest the BirthMARQ is a coherent and valid measure of the characteristics of memory for childbirth which may be important in postnatal mood and psychopathology. While further testing of its reliability and validity is needed, it is a measure capable of becoming a valuable tool for examining memory characteristics in the important context of childbirth.