To investigate whether levels of perfectionism, organization, and intolerance of uncertainty predispose women to more negative birth experiences and post‐partum post‐traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). Birth experience was also examined as a potential moderator of the relationship between levels of the personality traits and post‐natal PTSS.
First‐time expectant mothers (N = 10,000) were contacted via Emma’s Diary during the perinatal period. At 32–42 weeks’ gestation, participants completed measures examining the three personality traits and prenatal mood. At 6–12 weeks’ post‐partum, instruments assessing childbirth experience, birth trauma, PTSS, and post‐natal mood were completed. Data from 418 women were analysed.
Higher perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty were associated with more negative birth appraisals and PTSS. Organization was unrelated to birth experience or PTSS. In a regression, higher intolerance of uncertainty and perfectionism statistically predicted more negative birth appraisals. Only perfectionism predicted PTSS. Birth experience did not moderate the relationship between perfectionism or intolerance of uncertainty and PTSS.
Personality risk factors for negative birth experiences and post‐natal PTSS are identifiable prenatally. Maternity care providers could educate women about the unique roles of high perfectionism and intolerance of uncertainty during antenatal birth preparation.
Women who expect themselves to be more perfect or who find it more difficult to cope with uncertainty had more negative experiences of childbirth.
Women with higher levels of perfectionism were more likely to experience more symptoms of post‐traumatic stress during the early post‐natal period.
Being more perfectionistic continued to have a more negative effect on women’s well‐being after birth, regardless of whether they had a positive or negative experience of birth.
Integrating these findings into antenatal discussion around birth preferences would increase women’s awareness of predisposing and obstetric risk factors that partially explain experiences of unsatisfactory births and post‐partum post‐traumatic stress.