Can Midwives Reduce Postpartum Psychological Morbidity? A Randomized Trial


  • Tina Lavender MSc, RM, RGN,

  • Stephen A. Walkinshaw BSc, MRCOG, MD,

  • Tina Lavender is a Research Midwife and Stephen Walkinshaw is a Consultant in Feto-Maternal Medicine at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Merseyside, England.

Tina Lavender Liverpool Women’s Hospital, Crown Street, Liverpool L8 7SS, United Kingdom.© 1998 Blackwell Science, Inc.


Background:Women who are traumatized after childbirth find that listening, support, counseling, understanding, and explanation are the most useful treatments. However, little evidence is available from randomized trials of the relative efficacy of these treatments as a positive postnatal intervention. This study purpose was to examine if postnatal ‘‘debriefing’’ by midwives can reduce psychological morbidity after childbirth.Method:A randomized trial was conducted in a regional teaching hospital in northwest England. One hundred and twenty postnatal primigravidas were allocated by sealed envelopes to receive the debriefing intervention (n= 56) or not (n= 58). The main outcome measure was the Hospital Anxiety and Depression (HAD) scale administered by postal questionnaire 3 weeks after delivery. The proportion of women in each group with anxiety and depression scores of more than 10 points were compared, using odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals.Results:Women who received the intervention were less likely to have high anxiety and depression scores after delivery when compared with the control group.Conclusions:The support, counseling, understanding, and explanation given to women by midwives in the postnatal period provides benefits to psychological well-being. Maternity units have a responsibility to develop a service that offers all women the option of attending a session to discuss their labor. (BIRTH 25:4 December 1998)