Impact of traumatic birth on Australian obstetricians: A pilot feasibility study

Andrea L. Walker, Jenny Gamble, Debra K. Creedy, David A. Ellwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Traumatic stress can adversely affect obstetricians’ mental health and may affect care provision. Little is known about the impact of traumatic birth on the Australasian obstetric workforce. Aim: To assess the feasibility of conducting a binational survey of Australia and New Zealand obstetricians, trainees, and general practitioner obstetricians, to determine the prevalence of trauma exposure and associated factors. Materials and Methods: Feasibility was assessed using a convergent mixed-methods design. The pilot online survey assessed traumatic exposure and included the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale, Copenhagen Burnout Inventory (work subscale), and Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (short form). Qualitative data were generated from survey comments and telephone interviews and thematically analysed. Results: Using various recruitment strategies, 32 participants completed the survey, and eight completed interviews. Most participants were consultant obstetricians. Nearly all (n = 31, 96.9%) had been exposed to traumatic birth(s). Three-quarters had current symptoms of traumatic stress, one-quarter had symptoms of work-related burnout, but over two-fifths reported significant post-traumatic growth. Thematic analysis revealed perceptions that ‘obstetricians experience substantial trauma’, there is a ‘culture of blame in obstetrics’, and only ‘in some workplaces it’s supportive and safe’. Feasibility issues included the need to identify the respondent’s level of training at the time when their most traumatic birth occurred, ensure anonymity of responses, and use a different tool to assess traumatic stress symptoms. Conclusions: Conducting a full study of this important topic appeared feasible. Standardised measures were acceptable. Revision of some questions is required. Anonymity needs to be promoted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-560
Number of pages6
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists


  • burnout
  • obstetrics
  • pilot projects
  • post-traumatic
  • professional
  • stress disorders
  • surveys and questionnaires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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