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New study seeks first-time mothers in Ireland who experienced trauma during childbirth

The study will explore the impact of a traumatic birth on a mother’s emotional and psychological wellbeing.

RESEARCHERS FROM NUI Galway are seeking first-time mothers for a study that aims to explore how the birth experience impacts maternal wellbeing after childbirth.

The online study will look at how the experience of childbirth can have enduring psychological consequences.

A number of previous studies estimate that more than 40% of women experience some level of trauma during childbirth. And up to 6% have been diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress disorder.

A previous study in 2017 carried out by Dr Veronica Byrne at the School of Psychology in NUI Galway highlighted how the subjective birth experience of Irish mothers can impact on mental health and on self-identity.

If the birth experience does not go as planned this can impact on how a woman might adjust. Noelle Sammon from the School of Psychology is carrying out this new piece of research.

She said that for some women, childbirth can be a scary, emergency situation that they have no control over, in terms of what is happening to them, their body and/or their baby.

“Imagine what it must be like to feel like no one is listening to you, or they are not communicating what is happening to your body and your child. This may occur because the focus is on saving lives in an emergency childbirth situation,” she said.

“Psychologically, the impact of this more urgent and distressing birth experience can be traumatic and can have far-reaching consequences in terms of emotional and psychological wellbeing. Imagine the impact of not being included in decisions about your body.

Think of the psychological consequences of an emergency caesarean scar, if you have not been consulted on the process and the decision to scar you was taken out of your hands, even if the intent was to ensure safety. How might you feel, how might this stay with you, serving as a reminder that your experience was not how you had envisioned. What consequences might this have on your relationships, with yourself, with your partner, with your family and with your new baby.

Dr Jonathan Egan, deputy director of the doctorate in clinical psychology programme and supervisor of this research at NUI Galway said he frequently has women coming to him for treatment after childbirth. Many of these women suffer with chronic pain, or unprocessed traumatic memories of the birth.

“For some it can result in tokophobia or fear of childbirth and women will avoid having sex in case they might get pregnant again, they keep their thoughts and fears to themselves, so talking about them is the first step to recovery,” he said.

The research team is interested in exploring how control and support during and in the aftermath of a woman’s childbirth might impact on her psychologically in terms of trauma and mood and will cover both emergency and non-emergency childbirth scenarios.

They are looking for first-time mothers of infants aged between one and 13 months – anyone interested in taking part can participate by visiting this website or emailing Noelle Sammon at

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