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The aetiology of post-traumatic stress following childbirth: a meta-analysis and theoretical framework

Ayers, S., Bond, R., Bertullies, S. & Wijma, K. (2016). The aetiology of post-traumatic stress following childbirth: a meta-analysis and theoretical framework. Psychological Medicine, 46(6), pp. 1121-1134. doi: 10.1017/s0033291715002706


There is evidence that 3.17% of women report posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. This meta-analysis synthesizes research on vulnerability and risk factors for birth-related PTSD and refines a diathesis-stress model of its etiology. Systematic searches were carried out on PsychInfo, PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science using PTSD terms crossed with childbirth terms. Studies were included if they reported primary research that examined factors associated with birth-related PTSD measured at least one month after birth. 50 studies (N=21,429) from 15 countries fulfilled inclusion criteria. Pre-birth vulnerability factors most strongly associated with PTSD were depression in pregnancy (.51), fear of childbirth (.41), poor health or complications in pregnancy (r = .38), and a history of PTSD (.39) and counselling (.32). Risk factors in birth most strongly associated with PTSD were negative subjective birth experiences (.59), having an operative birth (assisted vaginal or caesarean, .48), lack of support (-.38), and dissociation (.32). After birth, PTSD was associated with poor coping and stress (.30), and was highly comorbid with depression (.60). Moderator analyses showed that the effect of poor health or complications in pregnancy was more apparent in high-risk samples. The results of this meta-analysis are used to update a diathesis-stress model of the etiology of postpartum PTSD and can be used to inform screening, prevention and intervention in maternity care.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Cambridge Journals, 2016. Content and layout follow Cambridge University Press’s submission requirements. This version may have been revised following peer review but may be subject to further editorial input by Cambridge University Press.
Publisher Keywords: Birth; labour; postpartum depression; post-traumatic stress disorder
Subjects: L Education
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
SWORD Depositor:
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