A phenomenological exploration of parenting after birth trauma: Mothers perceptions of the first year

E. Molloy, D.L. Biggerstaff, P. Sidebotham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While perinatal mental health issues are considered to have an impact on a mother’s parenting capacity, there is limited research exploring mothers’ perceptions of their relationship with their child following traumatic birth experiences and how these might affect their parenting capacity.

Birth trauma is a well-recognised phenomenon which may result in ongoing physical and perinatal mental health difficulties for women. This may impact on their attachment to their children, their parenting capabilities, and their self-identity as mothers.

To explore maternal self-perceptions of bonding with their infants and parenting experiences following birth trauma.

In-depth interviews with ten mothers were undertaken using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology.

Women who experienced birth trauma often described disconnection to their infants and lacking confidence in their parental decision making. Many perceived themselves as being ‘not good enough’ mothers. For some women the trauma resulted in memory gaps of the immediate post-partum period which they found distressing, or physical recovery was so overwhelming that it impacted their capabilities to parent the way they had imagined they would. Some women developed health anxiety which resulted in an isolating experience of early parenthood.

Women who have suffered birth trauma may be at risk of increased fear and anxiety around their child’s health and their parenting abilities. Some women may experience this as feeling a lower emotional attachment to their infant. Women who experience birth trauma should be offered support during early parenting. Mother-Infant relationships often improve after the first year.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-287
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'A phenomenological exploration of parenting after birth trauma: Mothers perceptions of the first year'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this