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, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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