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Post-traumatic stress during pregnancy and the postpartum period

Ayers, S. & Ford, E. (2016). Post-traumatic stress during pregnancy and the postpartum period. In: Wenzel, A. (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Perinatal Psychology. (pp. 182-200). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199778072.013.18


Research on PTSD in pregnancy and postpartum is relatively new but clearly demonstrates the importance of recognising and treating women with PTSD at this time. Women with PTSD in pregnancy are at greater risk of pregnancy complications and health behaviours that have a negative impact on the woman and fetus. In addition, approximately 1 to 3% of women develop PTSD as a direct response to the events of birth; and rates are increased in high risk groups such as women who have preterm or stillborn infants or life-threatening complications during pregnancy or labour. Models of the etiology of postpartum PTSD focus on the interaction between individual vulnerability, risk, and protective factors during and after birth. To date, there is strongest evidence for the role of previous psychiatric problems, a history of trauma, severe complications during birth, support, and women’s subjective experience of birth in postpartum PTSD. Very little research has examined screening or intervention, although intervention is possible at many levels. Midwife debriefing is commonly provided in the UK but there is inconsistent evidence of its efficacy. Further research is therefore desperately needed and we highlight key research topics that need addressing.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Ayers, S. & Ford, E. (2016). Post-traumatic stress during pregnancy and the postpartum period. In: A. Wenzel (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Perinatal Psychology. . Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199778072, reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press
Publisher Keywords: PTSD, birth, labor, pregnancy
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
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