Characteristics of memories for traumatic and nontraumatic birth

Rosalind Crawley, Stephanie Wilkie, Jenny Gamble, Debra K. Creedy, Jenny Fenwick, Nicola Cockburn, Susan Ayers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence for memory characteristic differences between trauma and other memories in non-clinical samples is inconsistent. However, trauma is frequently confounded with the event recalled. This study compares trauma and nontrauma memories for the same event, childbirth, in a non-clinical sample of 285 women 4–6 weeks after birth. None of the women met diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Traumatic birth, defined by the DSM-5 event criterion, was reported by 100 women. The ratings of some memory characteristics did not differ between memories for traumatic and nontraumatic birth: All were rated highly coherent and central to women's lives, with moderate sensory memory. However, women who experienced traumatic births reported more involuntary recall, reliving, and negative/mixed emotions. Thus, trauma memories differed from nontrauma memories. In this non-clinical sample, this is likely to be due to encoding during trauma rather than the distinctive memory profile for memories retrieved by those experiencing trauma symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-591
Number of pages8
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date11 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


NHMRC Grant ID 481900


  • autobiographical memory
  • birth
  • post-traumatic stress
  • postnatal
  • trauma memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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