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Maternal posttraumatic stress disorder during the perinatal period and child outcomes: A systematic review

Cook, N., Ayers, S. & Horsch, A. (2018). Maternal posttraumatic stress disorder during the perinatal period and child outcomes: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 225, pp. 18-31. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.045


BACKGROUND: Approximately 3.3% of women in pregnancy have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 4% of women postpartum PTSD. The impact of maternal PTSD during the perinatal period (from conception until one year postpartum) on child outcomes has not been systematically examined.

METHOD: A systematic review was conducted to synthesize and critically evaluate quantitative research investigating the association between perinatal PTSD and child outcomes. Databases EMBASE, BNI, Medline, PsycInfo and CINAHL were searched using specific inclusion and exclusion criteria.

RESULTS: 26 papers reporting 21 studies were identified that examined associations between perinatal PTSD and postpartum birth outcomes, child development, and mother-infant relationship. Studies reviewed were heterogeneous, with poor-to-medium scores of methodological quality. Results showed that maternal postpartum PTSD is associated with low birth weight and lower rates of breastfeeding. Evidence for an association between maternal PTSD and preterm birth, fetal growth, head circumference, mother-infant interaction, the mother-infant relationship or child development is contradictory. Associations between maternal PTSD and infant salivary cortisol levels, and eating/sleeping difficulties are based on single studies, so require replication.

LIMITATIONS: Methodological weaknesses of the studies included insufficient sample size, use of invalidated measures, and limited external validity.

CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that perinatal PTSD is linked with some negative child outcomes. Early screening for PTSD during the perinatal period may be advisable and onward referral for effective treatment, if appropriate. Future research using larger sample sizes, validated and reliable clinical interviews to assess PTSD, and validated measures to assess a range of child outcomes, is needed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Publisher Keywords: Posttraumatic stress disorder, Postnatal, Pregnancy, Birth outcomes, Child development, Mother-infant relationship
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Cook et al 2017 text copy.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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