The Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide

Lamaze International and PATTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth) are proud to announce the newest resource on Giving Birth with Confidence, the Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide. We hope that this new collection of resources will help women and families in their journey through pregnancy, birth and beyond.


Dear Giving Birth with Confidence Readers,

The members of PATTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth) would like to thank Lamaze International and Giving Birth With Confidence for the opportunity to share a series of posts addressing traumatic childbirth. This initial Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide is a preliminary collection of reflections written by many of the PATTCh Board members. The goal is to begin a conversation that explains the components of traumatic birth, increases awareness, and promotes prevention. Through multiple professional perspectives, our hope is to begin to shed light on the symptoms, risk factors, treatment and prevention of traumatic birth.

A birth is defined as traumatic if the woman was or believed she or her baby was in danger of injury or death, and she felt helpless, out of control, or alone, and can occur at any point in labor and birth (Beck, 2004a).  It is important to recognize that it is the woman's perception that determines the diagnosis, whether or not clinical staff or caregivers agree.  Even though physical injury to mother or baby often occurs during a traumatic birth, a birth can still be traumatic without such physical injury. Unfortunately, clinical symptoms of full diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can occur for mothers andpartners following a traumatic birth, the effects of which impact attachment, parenting, and family wellness.

Current research has demonstrated rates of full Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to traumatic childbirth ranging from 5.6% (Creedy, Shochet, & Horsfall, 2000) to 9% (Beck, Gable, Sakala & Declercq, 2011).  The rates of having experienced post-traumatic stress symptoms, but not a fully screened diagnosis of PTSD are as high as 18% (Beck, et al. 2011).

Studies have demonstrated common themes in the experiences of PTSD due to childbirth as: (a) perceived lack of communication by medical staff; (b) fear of unsafe care; (c) lack of choice regarding routine medical procedures; (d) lack of continuity of care providers; and (f) care being based solely on delivery outcome (Beck, 2004a).  These experiences occur globally. Preliminary studies in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, Israel, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and Nigeria have reported rates of PTSD from 1.25% to 14.9% (Beck, 2011). Long-term effects of PTSD secondary to childbirth include attachment and parenting difficulties (Bailham & Joseph, 2003).

PATTCh is a not-for-profit, multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth. Our mission is to develop cross-disciplinary relationships, research, and programs that:

  • prevent PTSD following childbirth through education, interdisciplinary collaboration, and multidisciplinary research;
  • educate perinatal care providers and paraprofessionals in the prevention and treatment of birth and reproduction related trauma;
  • encourage the development of culturally appropriate therapeutic approaches to post-traumatic stress symptoms following childbirth;
  • promote healthy birth practices for all women and families;
  • promote evidence-based research regarding PTSD secondary to childbirth;
  • increase global awareness of the prevalence, risk factors, and effects of PTSD secondary to childbirth; and
  • support collaboration and understanding among all stake-holders, including: researchers, policy makers, medical and mental health care providers, educators, community members, volunteers, women, and families.

PATTCh hopes to educate childbearing women and families and maternity care professionals; develop effective prenatal, intrapartum and postpartum care practices to prevent or reduce traumatic birth and post-birth PTSD; and identify and promote effective treatments to enhance recovery. We hope this series of articles will educate, inspire, and reassure you, and we look forward to your comments.

Walker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD(DONA)
President, PATTCh
twitter: @PATCh_

Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide

What to Do During a Traumatic Labor and Birth to Reduce the Likelihood of Later PTSDPenny Simkin, PT
 Pre-Existing Risk Factors for PTSD and ChildbirthHeidi Koss, MA, LMHC
Living Through Traumatic Birth: Loss, Grief, and RecoveryAn interview with Katie Rohs
Breastfeeding after a Traumatic BirthTeri Shilling, MS, LCCE, CD(DONA), IBCLC
10 Questions for a Partner of PTSD SurvivorWalker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD(DONA)
Treatment Options for Trauma Survivors with PTSDKathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA
Fathers and PTSDWalker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD(DONA)
Having a Baby after Traumatic BirthSuzanne Swanson, PhD, LP
No Typical Birth: NICU Experiences and PTSDLeslie Butterfield, PhD
Trauma and Personal Growth: New Frontiers in ResearchWalker Karraa, MFA, MA, CD(DONA)

The Traumatic Birth Prevention & Resource Guide© is the property of PATTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth). It is not a medical or psychological treatment recommendation and is only intended for educational purposes. Please consult your care provider for further diagnosis and/or treatment. For more information regarding PATTCh, please contact


  • Bailham, D., & Joseph, S. (2003). Post-traumatic stress following childbirth: a review of the emerging literature and directions for research and practice. Psychology, Health, & Medicine, 8, 159-168.
  • Creedy, D. K., Shochet, I. M., & Horsfall, J. (2000). Childbirth and the development of acute trauma symptoms: Incidence and contributing factors. Birth, 27, 104-111.
  •  Beck, C. T. (2004a). Birth trauma: In the eye of the beholder. Nursing Research53(1), 28-35.
  •  Beck, C. T. (2004b). Posttraumatic stress disorder due to childbirth: the aftermath. Nursing Research53(1), 216-224.
  •  Beck, C. T. (2011). Metaethnography of traumatic childbirth and its aftermath: Amplifying causal looping. Qualitative Health Research21(3), 301-311.
  •  Beck, C. T., Gable, R. K., Sakala, C. & Declercq, E. R. (2011). Posttraumatic stress disorder in new mothers: Results from a two-stage U.S. national survey. Birth, 38: 216227.doi:10.1111/j.1523-536X.2011.00475.x

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