Are Latina Women at Increased Risk for PTSD during and after Pregnancy?

Many women experience post-traumatic stress during and after pregnancy. But a new study discovered that in low-income Latina women, the presence of psychological problems can increase the risk for PTSD during pregnancy and postpartum. “PTSD symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum periods are associated with adverse perinatal risk behaviors, psychiatric comorbidity, and other adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes,” said the researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Alliant International University. Although there have been other studies focusing on the presence of PTSD in pregnant women, the researchers said, “Few studies have examined the psychosocial factors that contribute to risk for PTSD symptoms during these time periods. Even fewer studies have addressed risks for PTSD symptoms in pregnancies of ethnic women, including low-income, immigrant Latinas who may be especially vulnerable to developing PTSD symptoms because of heightened risk for exposure to violence and some chronic stressors in comparison with other groups.”

The researchers assessed 206 Latina women who were classified as low income and evaluated them during pregnancy, and again seven and 13 months postpartum. The women were interviewed by bilingual researchers and were asked about their income, marital status, depressive symptoms, exposure to trauma, social support network and intimate partner violence. The results showed that the low-income Latina women, who had experienced a traumatic event and also had symptoms of depression, were at increased risk for developing PTSD during pregnancy. Additionally, lack of social support, depression and intimate partner violence were all contributing factors to the development of PTSD at both the seven and 13 month post-partum marks. However, the history of trauma did not increase the risk for symptoms of PTSD post-partum. The researchers believe these findings are important for both the women and their unborn children. “Maternal psychological distress has been implicated as having direct and indirect effects on both maternal and child health.” They hope that their study will influence future research and added, “The results from the present analysis may open up new lines of inquiry and provide guidance to clinical care. Because PTSD and depressive symptoms had independent effects, they should be assessed separately in future studies where possible and certainly during pregnancy.”

Sumner, Lekeisha A., Lauren Wong, Christine Dunkel Schetter, Hector F. Myers, and Michael Rodriguez. “Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms among Low-income Latinas during Pregnancy and Postpartum.” Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy (July 18, 2011). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0022538

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • massey f

    August 1st, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    I think its not only about the racial background of the women but their economic condition and living conditions to blame.Its a well know fact that racial minorities have a somewhat lower standard of living in general and this goes a long way in issues such as stress and anxiety.

  • Sarah J.

    August 1st, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    @massey, I agree that the biggest issue for the women studied are their current economic conditions and the language barrier that they have creates even more concerns. Would this study show the same thing if they did it on socio-economic standings for women of a lower economic level. I came from a lower level but now am at a much more comfortable level. This level allows me to have a nanny and to go to a therapist.

  • Jerry C.

    August 2nd, 2011 at 4:23 AM

    I agree with the comments here. But I would also like to add that the familial structure is also different and that really has a role to play especially for women. It’s not like one reason does it all but rather a combination of reasons. We humans sure are lucky or unlucky by birth, aren’t we? Sad but it is a fact!

  • Christine

    August 2nd, 2011 at 4:36 AM

    Lets not generalize too much here. Is it the fact that the women are Latina or maybe is it that the population that was studied was low income, or the combination of both demographics. One without the other may not have had the same results.

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