27 July 2006

Prof. Pauline Slade awarded £15,000 to set up research network

Professor Pauline Slade has been awarded £15,000 to form an ESRC Network. The funds will be used to set up a series of meetings to form a network of researchers concerned with post traumatic stress disorder following child birth. The bid is in liaison with Universities of Oxford and Sussex where the first and second meetings will be held. The third international meeting will be in Sheffield in October 2007. The lay summary is below:

Postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a specialised area in which theory and research from health psychology and clinical psychology are relevant and can make a substantial contribution to our understanding. In addition, childbirth is an almost unique research paradigm with which to study the development of PTSD prospectively. The recognition of and research into postnatal PTSD is rapidly growing and has reached a point where a series of seminars between key researchers is critical to move the field forward in a coherent manner.

Recognition of birth trauma is increasing for a number of reasons. Self-help groups have been established in countries such as New Zealand (Trauma and Birth Stress) and the UK (Birth Trauma Association). These groups have been active in raising awareness of birth trauma in the media and government organisations such as NICE. Increasing criticism of maternity services, such as the recent report in the UK from the Healthcare Commission, and litigation in obstetrics means many UK hospitals have postnatal debriefing services for which there is little evidence of efficacy. Debriefing is also contrary to NICE guidelines for the treatment of PTSD, which specifically recommend against single session debriefing interventions as there is some evidence of potential harm arising from this practice.

Research into birth trauma is being conducted in countries such as the UK, Canada, USA, Sweden, Holland, and Australia. However, there is little consistency between studies in terms of methodology or measurement. In addition, even the individual vulnerability and environmental factors being examined are not defined in a consistent manner. There is also a large amount of unpublished research and current research being conducted, which could inform other researchers.

In sum, recognition of birth trauma is rapidly increasing, research is being carried out internationally but without a forum for researchers to meet and discuss research findings. In addition, clinical services are being implemented on the basis of need without an appropriate evidence base. It is therefore timely and necessary for us to have a series of seminars which would aim to increase our understanding, help improve our research, and take research further through successful collaboration.