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News from City, University of London

Professor Susan Ayers delivers inaugural lecture

City's new Professor of Child and Maternal Health outlines her research into the causes and consequences of traumatic birth.
by Ben

nullSusan Ayers, City's new Professor of Child and Maternal Health, delivered her inaugural lecture last night to an audience of staff, students, alumni and members of the medical profession in the Oliver Thompson Lecture Theatre at City University London.

In a captivating hour long lecture, entitled 'Taking baby steps: The causes and consequences of traumatic birth', Professor Ayers discussed her research into the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during childbirth, offering compelling evidence that the type of care received by women in labour is more important than how objectively 'traumatic' their birth is in determining their risk of developing PTSD.

Professor Ayers also outlined her work into the impact of PTSD on the family, noting its devastating effects on the parental bond, the couple's relationship, and its link with depression. One illustration of this was of a 75 year old woman, who had a troubled relationship with her husband and children and it was only years later that the cause of her relationship's difficulties was traced back to the traumatic birth of her second child, more than fifty years ago.

A health psychologist, who specialises in maternal mental health, Professor Ayers began studying PTSD in pregnancy a little over fifteen years ago and found only a few academic papers that mentioned PTSD in relation to birth. She has been one of the pioneering academics in this area and her research has helped develop a clearer understanding of the psychological impact of traumatic birth.

On her decision to join City's School of Health Sciences Professor Ayers, said:

"I came to City because of the focus on maternal and child health research here and the commitment of City University London to this area.

"The University has just set up the Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research which will work in partnership with local NHS trusts and other organisations to improve care in pregnancy and birth through careful evaluation of maternity services and new treatments.

"I will be examining a range of ways we can improve women's psychological well-being after birth, including internet-based intervention. I hope that our combined efforts will make a real difference to women's experiences of pregnancy and birth both now and in the future."

Article by Alexandra Thornton, Research Assistant, School of Health Sciences

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