Childbirth as Retraumatization of Childhood’s Sexual Abuse

Living reference work entry


Previous studies indicate that childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has negative physical and psychological long-term effects and that childbirth may retraumatize women who were sexually abused in childhood due to the women’s association of the delivery with their earlier maltreatment. Childbirth might also include traumatic elements such as threat or perceived threat to life and/or physical danger to the woman giving birth and/or her baby. Pregnant women with a history of child sexual abuse tend to have high anxiety levels during pregnancy additionally to birth complications, which may cause labor to be painful physically, as well as emotionally.

For the previously sexually abused woman, the exposure to the medical treatment and medical staff who help handling intimate organs that are associated with sex might also be traumatizing. In addition, women with a history of child sexual abuse may develop, after delivery, symptoms of distress, such as Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms (PTSD), depression and dissociation.

The purpose of this chapter is to summarize some of the current studies and evidence in the literature about the influence of childhood sexual abuse on postpartum, posttraumatic stress reactions and symptoms of distress in pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, the extent to which childbirth may function as a retraumatization of childhood sexual abuse will be explored.


Posttraumatic stress symptoms Childbirth Childhood sexual abuse Symptoms of distress Somatic disorders Physical symptoms Psychological 



Child Sexual Abuse


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder


Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social-WorkAshkelon Academic CollegeAshkelonIsrael
  2. 2.The Graduate School of Creative Art TherapiesUniversity of HaifaHacarmelIsrael
  3. 3.Medical CenterSoroka UniversityBeer ShevaIsrael

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