An All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) inquiry into traumatic childbirths has called for an overhaul of the UK’s maternity and postnatal care.  

The picture which emerged from the inquiry, was of a maternity system where poor care is all-too-frequently tolerated as normal, and women are treated as an inconvenience. 

What is the Birth Trauma Inquiry?  

It is a parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma in the UK, which was established in January 2024, to investigate the reasons why so many women experience birth trauma during their maternity care and to help develop policy to reduce the rate of birth trauma.  

The hope is the Inquiry will break the taboo around birth trauma by sharing the stories and experiences of mothers and fathers publicly and start a discussion on the realities of giving birth with the view to understanding what can be done to practically improve maternity services. 

The Inquiry was chaired by Theo Clarke MP, who set up the APPG for Birth Trauma following her own traumatic birth experience. The report was written by Dr Kim Thomas who is also CEO of the Birth Trauma Association, with input from a special advisory group of maternity campaigners including the Birth Trauma Association and MASIC. 

The Inquiry received more than 1,300 submissions from people who had experienced traumatic births, as well as nearly 100 submissions from maternity professionals. It also heard testimony from both parents and experts, including maternity professionals and academics. 

What is birth trauma?  

Birth trauma can be defined as “a woman’s experience of interactions and/or events directly related to childbirth that caused overwhelming distressing emotions and reactions, leading to short- and/or long-term negative impacts on a woman’s health and well-being.”  

Some people also use the term to describe physical injuries the mother may have sustained during birth, such as third- or fourth-degree tears as well as the psychological impact. Traumatic birth experiences are subjective – it is the woman’s perceptions of threat that are most important.  

Who is affected by birth trauma?  

Having a child is often referred to as one of the happiest moments of a person’s life, it is a memorable and life changing occasion. While many women in the UK have a positive experience of birth, resulting in a healthy baby, this is not always the case.  

Birth trauma can have a profound psychological impact, with flashbacks, nightmares, and feelings of intense anxiety. This means that birth trauma can affect every aspect of a woman’s life, including her bond with her baby, her relationship with her partner, her other children and her friends and family. It can also affect her ability to work. All of this ripples out into wider society, with the cost felt in NHS treatment, family breakup and the removal of women from the workplace. 

About 4-5% of women develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) every year after giving birth, equivalent to approximately 30,000 women in the UK.  

Women with postnatal PTSD are also at greater risk of developing depression. 

What did the Inquiry find?  

The stories told by parents were harrowing. They included accounts of stillbirth, premature birth, babies born with cerebral palsy caused by oxygen deprivation, and life-changing injuries to women as the result of severe tearing.  

Some of the most devastating accounts came from women who had experienced birth injuries, causing a lifetime of pain and bowel incontinence. Many of these women said they could no longer work and described their injuries as having destroyed their sense of self-worth. Other women wrote movingly of having to provide round-the-clock care for children left severely disabled as a result of birth injuries. 

In many of these cases, the trauma was caused by mistakes and failures made before and during labour. Frequently, these errors were covered up by hospitals who frustrated parents’ efforts to find answers. 

Women from marginalised groups, particularly those from minoritised ethnic groups, appeared to experience particularly poor care, with some reporting direct and indirect racism. 

Amongst the submissions received from midwives, the Inquiry found common themes which included under-staffing, a poor physical environment and a harmful working culture. One midwife wrote that she and her colleagues “are witness daily to the devastating impact of poor staffing, poor provision of resources, poor care and poor communication, which result in people lacking confidence in the service and the standard of care they will receive.” 

Evidence suggests midwives in particular experience high levels of stress and burnout, with some suffering from the impact of accumulated vicarious trauma and PTSD.  


The Inquiry concluded there is a need to introduce a base standard in maternity services across the United Kingdom. Currently there are several strategy documents relating to maternity but no single overarching document. They believe that maternity strategy should be brought into a single, living document, hosted on the UK government website and continuously brought up to date.  

The report is heart wrenching to read, but we hope it sheds a light on the scale of birth trauma in the UK and the devasting impact it has on women and their families.  We add our voice to the call on the Prime Minister and the UK government to implement the recommendations made in full. 

You can access a copy of the report here. 

Advice and Support  

If you have experienced birth trauma you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.  

The Clinical Negligence team at Ison Harrison frequently receive enquiries from woman who feel isolated, traumatised, or embarrassed by their birth experience and the lasting impact.  

Our team will listen to your story and deal with your enquiry in a sensitive manner. If we believe that there are sufficient prospects to pursue a claim, we will guide you through the process and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve to enable you to obtain support and assistance when you need it the most. 

To find out if you could make a claim, contact the Clinical Negligence team at Ison Harrison for a free, no obligation consultation. 


The Birth Trauma Association charity are founded and run by women who have experienced birth trauma, and they work to support parents and families.  

The charity MASIC provides information about the causes and impact of obstetric anal sphincter injuries.  

Tommy’s is the leading charity working to stop the heartbreak and devastation of baby loss and making pregnancy and birth safe for everyone. They offer baby loss information and support.  

Sands exists to reduce the number of babies dying and to support anyone affected by the death of a baby, before, during or shortly after birth, whenever this happened and for as long as they need support. 

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