Exploring the relationships between experiences of traumatic birth, couple relationships, and the transition to parenthood

Butterworth, Sarah ORCID: 0000-0001-8473-0809 (2020). Exploring the relationships between experiences of traumatic birth, couple relationships, and the transition to parenthood. University of Birmingham. Clin.Psy.D.

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Background: Perinatal mental health is a key national priority in the UK and significant rates of birth trauma have been identified in mothers and fathers following childbirth. Whilst research exists on the mother’s experiences and some limited research on the experience of fathers, there is little research looking at the experience of the couple and none using a dyadic focus. This research explored the experience of birth trauma and the couple relationship thereafter.

Method: The current study used a multiperspectival dyadic approach to separately interview mothers and fathers with experience of birth trauma. N = 8 participants (N=4 couples) were interviewed and data analysed within and across dyads using Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA).

Results: Analysis resulted in four superordinate themes: (1) From perfect plan to shattered reality, (2) Trauma in the healthcare system, (3) Trauma in the family system and (4) The post-trauma family: Navigating the new normal.

Discussion: Parents often had shared experiences during birth. However, for fathers the trauma experience ended in the hospital and for mothers it extended far beyond this. The dyadic focus showed differing levels of awareness and attunement to distress between partners. Parents did not talk about trauma, coped separately and the trauma remained unseen. Parents changed following the trauma as individuals and as a parenting couple.

Conclusion: The time after birth trauma is experienced differently by mothers and fathers. Parents seldom discuss the trauma, have differing perceptions of roles and needs, and often struggle to support each other during the trauma aftermath. Clinical implications and recommendations are discussed.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Clin.Psy.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Clin.Psy.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080


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