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Delivery as a traumatic event: prevalence, risk factors, screening & treatment

Ayers, S. (2004). Delivery as a traumatic event: prevalence, risk factors, screening & treatment. Clinical Obstetrics & Gynecology, 47(3), pp. 552-567. doi: 10.1097/01.grf.0000129919.00756.9c


This review looks at the evidence for postnatal posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Postnatal traumatic stress responses are divided into: appraisal of birth as traumatic, traumatic stress responses (severe symptoms of intrusions and avoidance that do not fulfil criteria for PTSD), and PTSD. Evidence is examined for the prevalence of these types of responses after birth, and for prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal vulnerability and risk factors. Screening tools that could be used are outlined and possible intervention and treatment approaches considered. Various conceptual and methodological issues are also raised.

It is concluded that up to 10% of women have severe traumatic stress responses to birth although only 1-2% of women actually develop chronic postnatal PTSD. The limited research available suggests that a history of psychiatric problems, mode of delivery, and low support during labour put women at increased risk of postnatal PTSD, although there is unlikely to be a simple relationship between mode of delivery and traumatic stress responses. A model of the possible pathways between vulnerability/risk factors and postnatal PTSD is proposed. Current evidence suggests that brief cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) interventions should be used with women who have a severe traumatic stress response, and longer CBT interventions with women with postnatal PTSD. More research is needed to further explore and confirm prenatal, birth, and postnatal risk factors.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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