Hyperarousal symptoms after traumatic and nontraumatic births

Ayers, S., Wright, D. & Ford, E. (2015). Hyperarousal symptoms after traumatic and nontraumatic births. JOURNAL OF REPRODUCTIVE AND INFANT PSYCHOLOGY, 33(3), pp. 282-293. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2015.1004164

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Abstract

Background: Measurement is critical in postnatal posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because symptoms may be influenced by normal postnatal phenomena such as physiological changes and fatigue. Objective: This study examined: (1) whether hyperarousal symptoms differ between women who have traumatic or nontraumatic births; (2) whether the construct of hyperarousal is coherent in postnatal women; and (3) whether hyperarousal symptoms are useful for identifying women who have traumatic births or PTSD. Methods: A survey of PTSD symptoms in 1,078 women recruited via the community or Internet who completed an online or paper questionnaire measuring childbirth-related PTSD symptoms between 1 and 36 months after birth. Women who had a traumatic birth as defined by DSM-IV criterion A (n = 458) were compared with women who did not have a traumatic birth (n = 591). Results: A one-factor dimension of hyperarousal was identified that included all five hyperarousal items. Diagnostic criteria of two or more hyperarousal symptoms in the previous week were reported by 75.3% of women with traumatic birth and 50.5% of women with nontraumatic births. The difference in mean hyperarousal symptoms between groups was substantial at 0.76 of a standard deviation (Hedge’s g, CI = 0.64, 0.89). A larger difference was observed between women with and without diagnostic PTSD (g = 1.64, CI 1.46, 1.81). However, receiver operating characteristic analyses showed hyperarousal symptoms have poor specificity and alternative ways of calculating symptoms did not improve this. Comparison with other PTSD symptoms found re-experiencing symptoms were most accurate at identifying women with traumatic births. Conclusions: Results suggest hyperarousal symptoms are associated with traumatic birth and are a coherent construct in postnatal women. However, they have poor specificity and should only be used as part of diagnostic criteria, not as a sole indicator.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychology
Subjects: R Medicine
Divisions: School of Health Sciences > Department of Midwifery
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/12626

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