Traumatic births

Traumatic births

Note on terminology: traumatic births are births which are physically traumatic (such as emergency caesarean sections, postpartum haemorrhage) and births that are experienced as traumatic, including when delivery is obstetrically straightforward (110).

  • Distress in labour and obstetric emergencies are some the strongest risk factors for PTSD in the postpartum period (111).
  • A small qualitative study of fathers who witnessed their partner’s traumatic birth found that they felt there was very little recognition of the impact this had on their mental health and on their relationship with their partner (112).

Local population

In 2020/21, there were 1,775 births by caesarean section in Cambridgeshire and 830 in Peterborough. The proportion of births by caesarean section rate is lower than the national average in Cambridgeshire, while it is similar to the national average in Peterborough (15).

Figure 21: Proportion of births by caesarean section in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Data source: Fingertips

The rate of women delivering vaginally who have a 3rd or 4th degree tear is somewhat higher than the national rate in Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) and has increased in recent months. In North West Anglia Foundation Trust (NWAFT), there has been a slight increasing trend since July 2022.

Figure 22: Women delivering vaginally who had a 3rd or 4th degree tear, per 1,000, at CUH (left) and NWAFT (right). Data source: National Maternity Dashboard


15. Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Child and Maternal Health [Internet]. Fingertips. 2023 [cited 2023 Mar 20]. Available from:
110. National Institute for Health Care Excellence. Antenatal and postnatal mental health – Quality Standard. NICE Guidelines. 2016;(February 2016).
111. Andersen LB, Melvaer LB, Videbech P, Lamont RF, Joergensen JS. Risk factors for developing post-traumatic stress disorder following childbirth: A systematic review. Vol. 91, Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica. 2012.
112. Daniels E, Arden-Close E, Mayers A. Be quiet and man up: A qualitative questionnaire study into fathers who witnessed their Partner’s birth trauma. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020;20(1).