Reducing birth trauma: psychologist provides evidence to Parliamentary Inquiry

Testimony from a University of Liverpool clinical psychologist will support the development of policy recommendations to reduce the rate of birth trauma.

Professor Pauline Slade, whose research areas include psychological processes in reproductive health, gave verbal evidence at an All Party Parliamentary inquiry at the House of Commons recently. The inquiry is investigating the reasons for traumatic birth and aims to develop policy recommendation to improve care.

Professor Slade said: “Birth trauma affects a huge number of women and can have long lasting consequences not just for them but their relationships with their partners and children. However, its frequency could be very substantially reduced. There are also very effective psychological interventions that can be provided if post-traumatic stress disorder does develop. I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to share my research and clinical knowledge with the committee and make a positive contribution to improving women’s health.”

Birth trauma facts

  • 4-5% of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after giving birth – equivalent to approximately 25,000-30,000 women every year in the UK.
  • As many as one in three women find some aspects of their birth experience traumatic.
  • 53% of women who experienced birth trauma are less likely to have children in the future and 84% of women who experienced vaginal tears during birth, did not receive enough information about birth injuries ahead of time.

The inquiry is currently gathering written and oral evidence to inform the policy report which will include practical policy recommendations for the UK Government. Professor Slade will attend the launch of the report in Spring 2024.

More about Professor Slade

Pauline is Professor in Clinical Psychology at University of Liverpool and Consultant Clinical Psychologist. She published the first UK survey identifying PTSD after childbirth in the UK in March 2000. She then pioneered the Birth Trauma Clinic at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals which is a forerunner of the new maternal mental health services which are now being rolled out across the country by National Health Service England (NHSE). She led the team who developed the Good Practice Guidance for Mental Health in Maternity and Neonatal settings published by NHSE in 2021.

She specialises in developing and evaluating psychological prevention and intervention strategies to improve perinatal mental health.  She has a specific interest and an international reputation in understanding the causes of and improving care for post-traumatic stress after childbirth.  She also has developed a programme to prevent and intervene with work-related PTSD in maternity staff.

Pauline is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS), has been a past chair for the Faculty of Perinatal Psychology and was recently awarded the prestigious MB Shapiro Award 2021 for eminence in clinical psychology.

Featured in image: Professor Pauline Slade (far left) with other experts and cross party leads, Theo Clark MP, and Rosie Duffield MP.