Mothers suffer stress after difficult births

The psychological trauma caused to mothers by difficult births can endure for years, Dr Susan Ayers, a Chartered Psychologist from Sussex University, has reported.

She has called for women who show post-traumatic symptoms after birth to be referred to psychotherapy or counselling – current provision is patchy – and endorsed the British Psychological Society’s call for improved perinatal services.

Research Dr Ayers has published in the journal Psychological Health research showing that women who receive little support from health practitioners during and after childbirth are at significantly higher risk of psychological problems, particularly if they had troublesome births.

Dr Ayers recently told the Mail on Sunday:

"I had one woman contact me who was 70. Decades ago, she had suffered a traumatic birth, but it was still very much an issue for her. She was significantly anxious and upset. If it is not treated, it can go on and be devastating for the woman.

"PTSD significantly increases the risk of a mother suffering anxiety in subsequent pregnancies. The mother’s relationships with their children can also be affected. Some can become over-protective and over-anxious about their child. ‘Other women report not having any feelings for the baby.

"There may also be a lasting physical impact on the children, if they have been exposed to high levels of stress hormones in the womb."