The EMDR Recent Birth Trauma Protocol: a pilot randomised clinical trial after traumatic childbirth

Psychol Health. 2020 Jul;35(7):795-810. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2019.1699088. Epub 2019 Dec 5.


Objective: This pilot study investigated the effectiveness of brief EMDR intervention as compared to treatment-as-usual (TAU) in women with post-partum PTSD symptoms.Design: A pilot randomised controlled trial was conducted to evaluate possible differences between one EMDR session (n = 19) and one TAU session (n = 18) delivered in a maternity ward in the aftermath of childbirth.Main Outcome Measures: The primary outcome measure was the rate of remission of post-partum post-traumatic stress symptoms (i.e. IES-R score <23) in both groups at 6-weeks (T1) and 12-weeks' post-partum (T2). Secondary outcome measures were mother-to-infant bonding, post-partum depressive symptoms, the presence of flashbacks and level of distress.Results: Most of the women improved their post-partum post-traumatic stress symptoms after only one treatment session. EMDR resulted more effective than TAU in reducing the proportion of women with post-partum post-traumatic stress symptoms at 6-weeks' post-partum (78.9% EMDR vs. 39.9% TAU; p = .020). Moreover, women treated with EMDR experienced less flashbacks and distress as compared to TAU. No significant difference was found between treatments on mother-to-infant bonding and post-partum depressive symptoms.Conclusions: These findings, although preliminary, suggest that a brief EMDR intervention could be a viable and promising tool in the early treatment of post-traumatic stress related to traumatic childbirth.

Keywords: EMDR; childbirth trauma; post-partum PTSD; trauma-focused intervention; traumatic childbirth.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery Rooms
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Psychotherapy, Brief
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome