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Doctors, Midwives Struggle With Guilt After Traumatic Childbirth

Overall, 36% to 49% of respondents report feelings of guilt; half prompted to think about meaning of life

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MONDAY, April 18, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Most Danish obstetricians and midwives report having been involved in a traumatic childbirth, and frequently have inner struggles with guilt and existential considerations, according to research published online April 13 in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.

Katja Schrøder, a registered midwife from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and colleagues conducted a mixed methods study comprising a national survey of Danish obstetricians and midwives and a qualitative interview study with selected participants. The authors examined the numbers and proportions of obstetricians and midwives involved in traumatic childbirth and their experiences with guilt, blame, shame, and existential concerns.

The researchers found that the response rate was 59 percent (1,237 respondents), 85 percent of whom stated having been involved in a traumatic childbirth. Five categories were formed during the comparative mixed methods analysis: the patient, clinical peers, official complaints, guilt, and existential considerations. Blame from patients, peers, or official authorities was feared; however, the dominant feelings reported were inner struggles with guilt and existential considerations. Thirty-six to 49 percent reported feelings of guilt and half agreed that traumatic childbirth made them think more about the meaning of life. Overall, 65 percent reported feeling that they had become a better midwife or doctor as a result of the traumatic incident.

"The results of this large, exploratory study suggest that obstetricians and midwives struggle with issues of blame, guilt, and existential concerns in the aftermath of a traumatic childbirth," the authors write.

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