The experience of breastfeeding after birth trauma: a phenomenological study

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University of New Brunswick


Childbirth can be a traumatic experience. Birth trauma is characterized by subjective feelings of horror, intense fear, or helplessness; it can have long term consequences on the parent's health and relationships. The health effects of breastfeeding are well documented, yet the impact of birth trauma on the breastfeeding experience is not well understood. Giorgi's Descriptive Phenomenological Method was used to elucidate the meaning of breastfeeding after birth trauma. Using the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as a lens, analysis of written descriptions revealed that breastfeeding after birth trauma encompasses the embodiment of pain and mistreatment, while feeling at the mercy of institutional policies. Participants also described unique support needs amidst opportunities for personal growth. The findings from this research could be used to help healthcare professionals be cognizant of what is important in caring for these individuals in the postpartum period and inform the development of supportive health care policies.