Volume 60, Issue 4 p. 555-560
Original Article

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

Andrea L. Walker

Corresponding Author

Andrea L. Walker

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Correspondence: Dr Andrea L. Walker, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Academic 1 (L05) 3.28, Griffith University, Logan Campus, University Drive, Meadowbrook, Qld 4131, Australia. Email: [email protected]

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Jenny Gamble

Jenny Gamble

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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Debra K. Creedy

Debra K. Creedy

School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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David A. Ellwood

David A. Ellwood

School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

Gold Coast University Hospital, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia

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First published: 11 December 2019
Citations: 8
Conflicts of Interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Abstract

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.