Pregnant women suffering from post-traumatic stress are at greater risk of giving birth prematurely, according to a study published Nov. 5 in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The study identified antenatal PTSD status and spontaneous preterm delivery in a group of 16,334 women whose deliveries were covered by the Veterans Health Administration between 2000 and 2012. Researchers divided mothers with PTSD into women whose diagnoses were present before delivery and those who had a history of the disorder.
The study showed moms who had PTSD in the year before giving birth had their chances of premature delivery increased by 35%. Among the 3,049 infants in the study born to mothers with diagnoses of PTSD, 1,921 births were to women with active PTSD, the study found. Nearly one-third of the deliveries were to women with recent deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan and 23% were to women reporting a history of military sexual trauma, the study said. Women with active PTSD were more likely to have been deployed than those with historical or no PTSD.
PTSD, which is a complex of disruptive symptoms, the study states, can stem from a traumatic experience such as violence or disaster. U.S. surveys show women are more prone to the disorder than men, with an estimated lifetime prevalence among women to be 10% to 14%.
Preterm birth is a leading cause of infant morbidity and mortality, the study said. In the U.S., 12% of babies are born are born prematurely, with about half being spontaneous. Researchers stressed the cruciality of identifying PTSD pregnancies as high risk, pointing out that one in 20 U.S. pregnancies is likely among women affected by PTSD. The study also reminds healthcare providers that regardless of setting or population, they are likely to encounter women with PTSD.
Our study highlights the importance of ensuring women with PTSD are connected to appropriate mental healthcare in the prenatal period not only to address stress dysregulation, but also the potential maladaptive behaviors that too often accompany untreated PTSD, and raises hope that appropriate treatment will not only improve maternal well-being, but may well improve infant outcomes, the researchers wrote. If future clinical trials determine that PTSD treatment reduces risk for preterm delivery, we will have a blueprint for how to prevent the invisible wounds of trauma from extending into the next generation.
To read the full study, visit http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/publishahead/Posttraumatic_Stress_Disorder_and_Risk_of.99300.aspx.