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The Impact of Birth on Women’s Health and Wellbeing

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Pathways and Barriers to Parenthood

Abstract

Being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a mother is a time of great change and adjustment which for some women may exacerbate existing mental health problems or lead to the development of new mental health problems. In addition, events of pregnancy or birth can be traumatic for some women. Reviews and meta-analyses suggest 4% of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth and this increases to 18% in high risk groups. However, the majority of women who experience a difficult or traumatic birth do not develop PTSD. Positive births have been less researched but are important in terms of considering common or distinctive factors that determine women’s experiences of birth, and the impact of birth experiences on women and their infants. Thus to understand the impact of birth on women and infants’ health and wellbeing it is important to examine both positive and negative birth experiences, as well as risk, resilience and personal growth in response to birth. All of these offer a different perspective on birth and the transition to motherhood and enable the development of interventions that tackle both the reduction of risk and increase of resilience and positive experiences to ensure women adapt and thrive. Focusing on women’s experiences of birth has both practical and political relevance in healthcare systems in terms of guiding practice, policy, and research. In this chapter we look at the importance of birth experiences in the subsequent health and wellbeing of women and infants. We consider a range of birth experiences from positive to traumatic, and examine the impact of these different types of birth experiences on women’s health and wellbeing. The implications of this research for maternity care and supporting women to have positive births are considered.

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Correspondence to Susan Ayers .

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Ayers, S., Sawyer, A. (2019). The Impact of Birth on Women’s Health and Wellbeing. In: Taubman – Ben-Ari, O. (eds) Pathways and Barriers to Parenthood. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24864-2_12

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