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Content and Processes of Postpartum Counseling After a Distressing Birth Experience: A Review

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Background: A distressing birth experience can produce debilitating symptoms of psychological trauma; however, little is known about the content and processes of counseling interventions to relieve trauma symptoms. This review identifies and examines common content and processes of postpartum counseling interventions to address trauma symptoms following childbirth. Method: A search of major databases (Cinahl 1982–2003; Cochrane 2003; Embase; Proquest; Psychlit; Pubmed/Medline 1966–2003; Sociofile) was conducted, using combinations of the key words of “childbirth,”“postpartum,”“posttraumatic stress disorder,”“anxiety,”“trauma,”“stress,”“debriefing,” and “counselling” or “counseling.” Identified content and processes were clustered through a thematic analysis. Results: Nineteen publications were retrieved. Counseling strategies provided women with opportunities to talk about their birth experience, express feelings about what happened, have questions answered, address gaps in knowledge or understanding of events, connect the event with emotions and behavior, talk about future pregnancies, and explore existential issues. Conclusions: Descriptions of postpartum counseling and debriefing are generalized and nonspecific; they provide minimal direction for postpartum counseling models, lack necessary detail for replication, may require psychotherapeutic training and therefore be unsuitable for use by caregivers, and are often based on opinion with little empirical evaluation. Few studies have tested specific counseling interventions on a range of maternal outcomes. Further research is needed to develop counseling models for use by health professionals with women who report a distressing birth experience.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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