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What are women stressed about after birth?

What are women stressed about after birth?

Ayers, Susan, Crawley, Rosalind, Webb, Rebecca, Button, Susan and Thornton, Alexandra (2019) What are women stressed about after birth? Birth, 46 (4). pp. 678-685. ISSN 0730-7659 (Print), 1523-536X (Online) (doi:

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Background: Having a baby is associated with a variety of stressors, change and adjustment. This study aimed to identify what women find stressful during the early postpartum period in contemporary Western society.

Methods: Women (n = 148) 6-12 weeks postpartum wrote anonymously about a situation they found stressful as part of the Health after Birth Trial of expressive writing. Transcripts were analyzed for categories of stressors and cross-cutting themes.

Results: Five categories of stressors were identified. Stressors in pregnancy, labour and the early postpartum period (49.3%) included physical and emotional difficulties, as well as insensitive treatment by health professionals. Stressors related to adjusting to life with a baby (35.8%) included difficulties coping with a new baby, parenting, juggling responsibilities, changes to physical health, and loneliness. Stressors related to the baby’s health (32.4%) included infant digestive problems, acute health problems, long-term impact, and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit experiences. Stressors related to breastfeeding (23.7%) included pressure to breastfeed, feeling like a ‘bad mum’ for not breastfeeding, or wanting to breastfeed and not being able to. Other stressors related to changing relationships (18.2%): with their partner, children and other family members. Cross-cutting themes that emerged in different stressor categories were women making negative self-appraisals (e.g. a bad mum, failure), feeling guilty, and lack of support from others.

Discussion: Our findings emphasise the importance of exploring stressors and psychological well being with women to provide support, help women’s adjustment postpartum, and ensure interventions are offered when appropriate.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: postpartum, stress, birth
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences
Faculty of Education, Health & Human Sciences > School of Health Sciences (HEA)
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2020 01:38

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