Psychosocial health and well-being among obstetricians and midwives involved in traumatic childbirth

Midwifery. 2016 Oct:41:45-53. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2016.07.013. Epub 2016 Aug 2.


Objective: this study investigates the self-reported psychosocial health and well-being of obstetricians and midwives in Denmark during the most recent four weeks as well as their recall of their health and well-being immediately following their exposure to a traumatic childbirth.

Material and methods: a 2012 national survey of all Danish obstetricians and midwives (n=2098). The response rate was 59% of which 85% (n=1027) stated that they had been involved in a traumatic childbirth. The psychosocial health and well-being of the participants was investigated using six scales from the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQII). Responses were assessed on six scales: burnout, sleep disorders, general stress, depressive symptoms, somatic stress and cognitive stress. Associations between COPSOQII scales and participant characteristics were analysed using linear regression.

Results: midwives reported significantly higher scores than obstetricians, to a minor extent during the most recent four weeks and to a greater extent immediately following a traumatic childbirth scale, indicating higher levels of self-reported psychosocial health problems. Sub-group analyses showed that this difference might be gender related. Respondents who had left the labour ward partly or primarily because they felt that the responsibility was too great a burden to carry reported significantly higher scores on all scales in the aftermath of the traumatic birth than did the group who still worked on the labour ward. None of the scales were associated with age or seniority in the time after the traumatic birth indicating that both junior and senior staff may experience similar levels of psychosocial health and well-being in the aftermath. KEY CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: this study shows an association between profession (midwife or obstetrician) and self-reported psychosocial health and well-being both within the most recent four weeks and immediately following a traumatic childbirth. The association may partly be explained by gender. This knowledge may lead to better awareness of the possibility of differences related to profession and gender when conducting debriefings and offering support to HCPs in the aftermath of traumatic childbirth. As many as 85% of the respondents in this national study stated that they had been involved in at least one traumatic childbirth, suggesting that the handling of the aftermath of these events is important when caring for the psychosocial health and well-being of obstetric and midwifery staff.

Keywords: Midwives; Obstetricians; Psychosocial health and well-being; Second victim; Secondary trauma; Traumatic childbirth.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Injuries
  • Denmark
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Midwifery
  • Nurse Midwives / psychology*
  • Obstetrics
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Workforce
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*