Childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder in couples: A qualitative study


Correspondence should be addressed to Susan Ayers, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Sussex BN1 9QH, UK (e-mail:


Objectives. Previous research has established that women can develop childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the effect of this on a couple's relationship has not been examined. This study aimed to look at the experience and impact of childbirth-related PTSD in women and their partners.

Design. This was a qualitative interview study of six couples, where at least one partner had clinically significant symptoms of childbirth-related PTSD.

Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted separately with each partner and interview transcripts subjected to thematic analysis.

Results. Analysis identified four themes with 18 subthemes as follows: (1) birth factors (pain, negative emotions in labour, perceived lack of control, lack of choice or lack of involvement in decision-making, restricted movement or physical restraint, and expectations not being met); (2) quality of care (information provision, staff factors, continuity of care and environment); (3) effects on relationship with partner (impact on physical relationship, communication within the relationship, negative emotions within the relationship, receiving or giving support from partner, coping together as a couple and overall effect on the relationship); and (4) effects on relationship with child (perceptions of the child and parent-baby bond).

Conclusions. This study suggests that PTSD may have a negative impact on the couple's relationship and the parent–baby bond.