Birth Matters: A Collaborative Research Project Exploring Birth Trauma

trauma; traumatic

Editor’s note: Since our original publication of this piece on November 29th, we’ve received a lot of feedback about survey participants only being eligible if they’re six months postpartum or less. We know that often trauma and a diagnosis of PTSD come long after the six month mark, however we have to limit our eligibility criteria. The information collected from this survey will give us the evidence to do more work with more moms – and expand our criteria in the future. The deadline to participate is January 31, 2017.

The most humbling part of being a staff member at Postpartum Progress is meeting moms and hearing their stories. Whether a mom is newly diagnosed, or is recovered from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder there is something special about being entrusted with her story.

The more I listen the more I notice common themes; many women tell me about events during pregnancy or birth they consider to be traumatic. These often contribute to their later diagnosis of postpartum depression, anxiety or another mental health concern.

One of most common issues that comes up is birth trauma. So many of our moms experience something traumatic that leaves them feeling scared and alone. And trauma doesn’t look the same for everyone.

Trauma can occur if your wants and needs are ignored and you are treated without respect. Poor communication from your doctor that leaves you uncertain about your health or that of your baby can be traumatic. Protracted labor, poor pain management, medical interventions, emergency c-section, a baby in distress, a stay in the NICU; any of these can be traumatic and each of us responds differently.

Because responses to childbirth can vary from very positive to negative and traumatic, Postpartum Progress is teaming up with Dr. Sharon Dekel from Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital to collect information about emotional responses to childbirth. We want to learn about different reactions to childbirth, why they happen, and what their long-term impacts to mom and baby are.

We want to survey as many women as possible, with all kinds of childbirth experiences – to find out what is the emotional impact of childbirth on women.  Our goal is to know how we can help women overcome their negative experiences and improve positive ones. This information can help to develop assessment and prevention tools for traumatic childbirth reactions.

No matter your birth experience, if you are at least 18 years old and have had a baby in the past six months can take our survey. It is completely anonymous and will take about 20 minutes to finish.

Together we can start to better understand and treat traumatic birth experiences.  Click here to find out more about the survey and to participate!  The deadline to participate is January 31, 2017.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. The timeline really needs to be expanded.

  2. Leah Mortley says:

    This is such good news and good work! Praise God!

  3. Sarah Martin says:

    This is a great study to do. But it would be great if you expand the post partum period. My youngest is now 4, but I would be very interested in participating

    • Shannon Hennig says:

      Thanks for you comments Sarah! I agree about the limitations on the current study and we’ll be working hard in 2017 to include more moms who are well past the six months postpartum mark. We know that many moms don’t realize or even consider trauma as part of their experience until months and even years later, but we have to start with a small sample with well a defined population. Success with this project will hopefully enable us to secure funding to expand the study to include more moms. The goal is to have it continually building off itself.
      – Shannon

  4. As an L&D nurse I find this an interesting topic, as a 24 year ago birth trauma survivor it hits home, and validates that what I feel about that experience can really affect a person! I try to turn my negative event into a positive for my patients and give them an experience that is much different from my own! Wow I am kind of surprised this is a real thing!

    • Shannon Hennig says:

      Hi Annette,

      I’m glad that it helps to validate your experience. Birth Trauma is an emerging area of study that’s gaining traction and the work we’re doing will hopefully add to the evidence.

      Thank you for using your experience to inform your practice!

  5. I just want to say I have 5 children. 2 were born in hospital and on both occasion, the whole event was a nightmare from beginning to end. And left me to deal with a lot of emotional problems afterward.

    However, the later 3 I delivered in my own bed at home using various relaxation techniques including hypnosis. Each of the births were a dream. The longest delivery was only 2 hours, which is a vast improvement, compared the my first hospital delivery of 36 hours!

    Furthermore, I would say that my youngest 3 children, now in their 20’s, have calmer and more laid back personalities.