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Women’s experience of traumatic childbirth: An interpretative phenomenological analysis

Sandercombe, Carly


Carly Sandercombe


It has long been recognised that women may experience trauma as part of the birth process. Up to half of women worldwide report their birth as traumatic, therefore further investigation is a priority. Previous research has focused on women diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Postnatal Depression (PND) with a lack of focus giving women without a diagnosis a voice as to why they experienced trauma during childbirth. This study provides an explorative and in-depth understanding of women who experience trauma as part of the birth process who do not have a diagnosis of PTSD or PND.

Participants were recruited on Facebook and interviews were conducted on Skype. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to explore their subjective experiences of childbirth.

Six women who had given birth in the last two years, subjectively defined their birth as difficult/traumatic, aged eighteen or above, currently lived inthe UK, and did not have a diagnosis of PND or PTSD participated.

Three superordinate themes were identified: 1) Birth experience as loss which explores participants’ feelings of loss which include; loss of fantasy birth, loss of control, and loss of self; 2) Birth as near death which encapsulates the feelings of terror experienced by participants during and after childbirth; 3) Fear of not getting “it” right in the eyes of others which represents an underlying fear of doing something wrong during and after childbirth.

Findings show that for these women there were many factors that contributed towards childbirth trauma which highlights the importance of mothers’subjective birth experience. Women would benefit from better education systems helping prepare them for the realities of childbirth. Health Psychologists can work alongside maternity services to help provide better antenatal education and screening, and care and communication during labour and following birth.


Sandercombe, C. Women’s experience of traumatic childbirth: An interpretative phenomenological analysis. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 29, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 29, 2020
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