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OBJECTIVE: Severe life-threatening complications in pregnancy that require urgent medical intervention are commonly known as "near-miss" events. Although these complications are rare (1 in 100 births), there are potentially 8,000 women and their families in the UK each year who live through a life-threatening emergency and its aftermath. Near-miss obstetric emergencies can be traumatic and frightening for women, and their impact can last for years. There is little research that has explored how these events impact on partners. The objective of this interview study was to explore the impact of a near-miss obstetric emergency, focusing particularly on partners. DESIGN: Qualitative study based on narrative interviews, video and audio recorded and transcribed for analysis. A qualitative interpretative approach was taken, combining thematic analysis with constant comparison. The analysis presented here focuses on the experiences of partners. PARTICIPANTS: Maximum variation sample included 35 women, 10 male partners, and one lesbian partner who had experienced a life-threatening obstetric emergency. SETTING: Interviews were conducted in participants' own homes. RESULTS: In the hospital, partner experiences were characterized by powerlessness and exclusion. Partners often found witnessing the emergency shocking and distressing. Support (from family or staff) was very important, and clear, honest communication from medical staff highly valued. The long-term emotional effects for some were profound; some experienced depression, flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder months and years after the emergency. These, in turn, affected the whole family. Little support was felt to be available, nor acknowledgement of their ongoing distress. CONCLUSION: Partners, as well as women giving birth, can be shocked to experience a life-threatening illness in childbirth. While medical staff may view a near-miss as a positive outcome for a woman and her baby, there can be long-term mental health consequences that can have profound impacts on the individual, but also their families.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Demography, Emotions, Female, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Male, Parturition, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Qualitative Research, Spouses, United Kingdom, Young Adult