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Birth Trauma and the Professional: How Caring for Staff with Trauma-Informed Approaches Increases Birth Outcomes


Nearly 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, with statistics showing a slight decline in births in 2021 to 3.7 million. Currently, the majority of births (98.4%) happen in hospital settings (MacDorman & Declercq, 2019). Before the pandemic, one quarter to one third of birthing parents reported their births as traumatic (Simkin, 2016). The US has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, with an exponential number of women nearly dying (severe maternal morbidity). The CDC (2022) reports that in 2014 for every parent who dies in childbirth, 70 nearly die, resulting in a morbidity rate of nearly 50,000 per year. Patient safety groups report that number is much higher, with 80,000 parents reporting “severe maternal morbidity” (NPR, 2018). Birth trauma, perinatal depression and anxiety, and PTSD are on the rise greatly attributed to the COVID pandemic (Basu, et al, 2021), and the impact of these experiences can be measured in the billions of dollars. The projected costs of maternal morbidity from birth trauma from conception through age 5 is $32.2 billion dollars (O’Neil, 2021).

There are multiple elements that influence births that make the issue complex. The professionals in this series are addressing Care for the Staff. In prenatal and perinatal somatics, we call the birth professional space “the surround,” and it includes all professionals who assist at births: nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, midwives, lactation consultants. We know that what they experience and how their nervous systems are responding make a huge difference. Latest trends in healthcare management now see the impact of birth trauma on the healthcare professionals as “moral injury” or “secondary trauma,” and are currently emphasizing a trauma-informed approach.

We are bringing a diverse group of professionals together to address how we can support birth staff to help decrease trauma in birth settings. How can we, as a culture and society, support professionals better so that birth outcomes are more positive. We know that women, couples, and babies experience trauma at births; so do birth staff. And they bring layers of stress and trauma from their lives, and from the settings where they may work. Birth workers are part of a resonant whole when it comes to supporting positive births. We need to address all the parts of a birth process to increase our birth outcomes, and help change a system that needs to shift.

  • Basu A, Kim HH, Basaldua R, Choi KW, Charron L, Kelsall N, et al. (2021) A cross-national study of factors associated with women’s perinatal mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. PLoS ONE 16(4): e0249780.
  • Center for Disease Control, Reproductive Health Division.
  • (2022). Severe maternal morbidity in the United States. Downloaded from
  • NPR. (2018) Lost Mothers: Maternal Mortality in the US. [Radio Broadcast]. Washington, DC.
  • MacDorman MF, Declercq E. (2019). Trends and state variations in out-of-hospital births in the United States, 2004–2017. Birth: 46(2):279–288.
  • NPR. (2018) Lost Mothers: Maternal Mortality in the US. [Radio Broadcast]. Washington, DC.
  • O’Neil, S. Platt, I., Vohra, D., Pendl-Robinson, E., Dehus, E. Zephyrin, L., Zikian, K. (2021). The High costs of maternal morbidity show why we need greater investment in maternal Health (Commonwealth Fund, Nov.).
  • Simkin, P. (2016). Resource guide: Prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth. Retrieved from:

Current Speakers:

August 31, 2022: Kate White and Lois Trezise: Two Layers of Support: Recognizing the Need for Trauma Support for Birth Professionals

September 7, 2022: Kathy Kendall-Tackett: When Helping Hurts: Secondary Traumatic Stress and Moral Injury Among Birth Workers

September 14, 2022: Mary Koloroutis and Michael Trout: See Me as A Person: The Importance of Care and Compassion for Oneself and Each Other

September 21, 2022: Amber Price: The Impact of Secondary and Personal Trauma on Respectful Maternity Care

September 28, 2022: Karen Strange: Professional Debriefing for Traumatic Birth Events: The Healing Sweet Spot

Panel talk October 5

All talks will be delivered via zoom technology. If you have not downloaded this free internet communication software, you can go to All talks will be recorded and you will have lifelong access.


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