What makes labour and birth traumatic? A survey of intrapartum 'hotspots'

Rachel Harris, Susan Ayers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence suggests between 1% and 6% of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. 'Hotspots' are moments of extreme distress during traumatising events that are implicated in symptoms of PTSD. This cross-sectional internet survey of hotspots examined (1) the content of intrapartum hotspots and (2) whether particular events, cognitions or emotions during hotspots are related to PTSD. Women (N = 675) who experienced a difficult or traumatic birth completed a questionnaire composed of a validated measure of PTSD, questions concerning the existence of hotspots, and a newly developed measure of emotions and cognitions during hotspots. The majority of women (67.4%) reported at least one hotspot during birth and 52.9% had re-experiencing symptoms of these hotspots. Women were more likely to have PTSD if hotspots involved fear and lack of control (odds ratio (OR) 1.30, 95% CI 1.17-1.43) or intrapartum dissociation (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.05-1.19). Risk of PTSD was higher if hotspots concerned interpersonal difficulties (OR 4.34, 95% CI 2.15-8.77) or obstetric complications (OR 3.35, 95% CI 1.64-6.87) compared to complications with the baby.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1166-1177
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology & health
Issue number10
Early online date31 Jan 2012
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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