Trauma from childbirth can have long-term effects on a mother, especially when the childbirth experience was complicated, lengthy, painful, or life threatening. For women who have emergency cesarean section births, rates of posttraumatic stress (PTSD) are very high in the immediate weeks after birth. However, there are a number of other factors that could influence the development of PTSD. In a recent study, Maryam Modarres of the Department of Midwifery and the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at Shahed University in Iran looked at what factors pre- and post-delivery affected the onset of PTSD.
Modarres assessed 400 women in the first two months after childbirth and found that 54.5% of them had experienced a traumatic birth and a total of 80 women had post-partum PTSD. She looked further and found that these women had lower education levels, less prenatal healthcare and higher levels of premature labor than those who did not develop PTSD. Also, the women who had complicated labors and emergency C-sections were most likely to develop PTSD and other anxiety related issues associated with the birth. Modarres explains these finding by theorizing that women with less access to healthcare may have more pregnancy complications, thus increasing their stress related to delivery and contributing to postpartum PTSD. Also, women lower education levels may not be fully aware of the importance prenatal care or be aware of the importance of self-care during and after pregnancy.
Another finding of this study suggests that women with pre-existing stress are at increased risk for postpartum PTSD. Issues such as childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and depression can elevate their chance for a complicated delivery and postnatal mental health problems. Modarres hopes that these results show the importance of prenatal care and how clinicians working with pregnant women can help them. If risk factors for PTSD are identified during pregnancy, especially risks such as existing stress and low maternal education, measures can be taken to help women address these factors. “It seems that a better perinatal care and supportive childbirth might help to reduce the burden of post-partum PTSD among this population,” said Modarres.
Modarres, Maryam, et al. (2013). Prevalence and risk factors of childbirth-related post-traumatic stress symptoms. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 12.1 (2012): 88. ProQuest Family Health. Web.
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