Fathers are more likely to report negative birth stories if they report anxiety or poor mental health in previous 3 months

birth stories

A recent transatlantic study has found that negative birth stories are predicted by symptoms of depression and anxiety in the third trimester of pregnancy predict. This is true for both mothers and fathers. The strength of this prediction is as strong as the link between having a caesarean section and telling a negative birth story.

Furthermore, the study showed negative birth stories predict more anxiety and depression four months after the birth, again for mothers and fathers alike.

Thirdly, the study showed that both mothers and fathers are more likely to report worse birth stories after a caesarean birth than a normal vaginal birth and that this is one of the factors that leads to increased postnatal anxiety and depression for mothers four months after the birth.

Based on these assessments of birth stories, measured using the Birth Memories and Recall Questionnaire, the researchers, led by Professor Claire Hughes at Cambridge University, make two recommendations for practice:

  • the psychological well-being of both mothers and fathers should be routinely assessed antenatally
  • care for parents after a difficult birth, including a caesarean birth, should include both parents also.

The study involved 314 first-time expectant couples in UK and US. The sample was middle-class and relatively affluent.

Previous research has shown that declines in well-being after a birth of a baby are commonplace among both mothers and fathers. A child’s development, both cognitive and social/emotional, can be adversely affected. Parenting quality and parental mental health can also both be affected. Fathers are frequently reported as feeling left out and overwhelmed when birth does not proceed normally. A 2017 study, also reported on FamilyIncluded.com, found that reports of negative birth stories by fathers predict poor postnatal mental health.


Hughes C, Foley S, Devine RT, Ribner A, Kyriakou L, Boddington L & Holmes EA (2019), Worrying in the wings? Negative emotional birth memories in mothers and fathers show similar associations with perinatal mood disturbance and delivery mode, Archives of Women’s Mental Health

Photo: Brian Wolfe. Creative Commons.