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Psychol Health. 2011 Dec;26(12):1553-70. doi: 10.1080/08870446.2010.533770. Epub 2011 May 23.

Support during birth interacts with prior trauma and birth intervention to predict postnatal post-traumatic stress symptoms.

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Psychosocial Oncology Group, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.



Many women experience childbirth as traumatic and 2% develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This study examined the role of health practitioner support and personal control during birth as predictors of post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms, adjusting for vulnerability factors of prior trauma, depression, control beliefs and birth intervention. It also investigated interactions between support, prior trauma and birth intervention and their association with PTS symptoms.


A prospective longitudinal survey of 138 women recruited from UK NHS maternity clinics. Measures were taken in pregnancy, 3 weeks and 3 months after the birth.


Support and control during birth were not predictive of postnatal PTS symptoms. However, support was predictive of PTS symptoms in a subset of women with prior trauma (β = -0.41, R(2) = 16%) at both 3-weeks and 3-months postpartum. The interaction of birth intervention and support was associated with PTS symptoms 3 months after birth, the relationship between support and PTS symptoms was stronger in women experiencing more intervention.


Low support from health practitioners is predictive of postnatal PTS symptoms in women who have a history of trauma. Longer term effects of low support on postnatal PTS symptoms are also found in women who had more intervention during birth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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