Mother-infant contact after birth can reduce postpartum post-traumatic stress symptoms through a reduction in birth-related fear and guilt

Rotem Kahalon*, Heidi Preis, Yael Benyamini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Despite the well-documented negative effects of posttraumatic stress symptoms following childbirth (PTSS-FC), research on protective factors for PTSS-FC is still missing. Aiming to fill this gap, we proposed and examined a process model through which maternal-infant skin-to-skin contact after birth reduces PTSS-FC by decreasing negative emotions, especially for women who had operative births. Method: In this longitudinal study, pregnant women (N = 1833) were recruited at community and hospital medical centres in the center of Israel and through internet forums. At Time 1, during pregnancy, they rated their prenatal depressive symptoms which served as an indicator for prenatal vulnerabilities. At Time 2, two-months postpartum (N = 1371, 75% of the sample), they reported their mode of birth, whether they had skin-to-skin contact with their newborn after birth, their emotions during birth, and rated their current PTSS-FC. A moderated mediation analysis was used to examine the proposed model. Results: Guilt and fear during birth mediated the association between mode of birth (instrumental or cesarean versus vaginal) and PTSS-FC. Skin-to-skin contact was related to reduced feelings of guilt and fear during birth, especially for women who had a cesarean section. Conclusions: Our results recognize the specific emotions that contribute to the development of PTSS-FC following operative births and show how skin-to-skin contact can possibly reduce them. As such they emphasize the importance of the implementation of skin-to-skin contact following childbirth, and especially following a cesarean section as recommended by the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (World Health Organization & UNICEF, 2009).

Original languageEnglish
Article number110716
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Cesarean section
  • Childbirth
  • Guilt
  • Instrumental birth
  • Mode of birth
  • Operative birth
  • Posttraumatic stress symptoms
  • Skin-to-skin contact


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