Can Childbirth Cause PTSD?
August 9, 2012

PTSD Symptoms Found In Some Women After Childbirth

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

PTSD generally develops in people who have experienced traumatic events, like car accidents or terrorist attacks. However, these symptoms can result from everyday events like childbirth. A study from Tel Aviv University (TAU) found that about one in three post-partum women develop some symptoms of PTSD, and a small group demonstrates fully developed PTSD symptoms. The researchers believe that PTSD is more common in women than originally anticipated. They discuss their findings in a recent edition of the Israel Medical Association Journal.

"The less pain relief there was, the higher the woman's chances of developing post-partum PTSD," explained Professor Rael Strous of TAU´s Sackler Faculty of Medicine in a prepared statement.

In the project, researchers interviewed 89 post-partum women whose ages ranged from 20 to 40. They participated in the interview following the first two to five days after the baby´s delivery as well as once again one month after the delivery of the child. They found that, in all the interviewees, 25.9 percent demonstrated symptoms of post-trauma, 7.8 percent showed signs of partial post-trauma, and 3.4 percent were seen with complete PTSD. A few of the symptoms included flashbacks of the pain and danger of labor, the physical reactions when discussing the experience of giving birth, as well as a reluctance to become pregnant again.

In particular, 80 percent of the women who developed PTSD symptoms decided to have natural childbirths without pain relief. Another 80 percent also stated that they felt uncomfortable being unclothed. Furthermore, fear of labor was something that lay heavily on the subjects´ shoulders. Besides pain, other factors that affected the development of symptoms include a women´s body image, complications that happened before and after the pregnancy, as well as any fear during labor.

Moving forward with the study, the investigators hope to better understand the potential risk factors that come about from post-traumatic symptoms. They hope to conduct more research that can aid in the development of treatment plans and resources for women. They also want to determine methods that can minimize the impact of PTSD.

Lastly, based on their findings, the scientists recommend that physicians become more knowledgeable on the signs of women who seem to be suffering from PTSD symptoms. Doctors can offer improved counseling on pain management as well as make sure that the patients´ bodies are covered during labor, so that they don´t witness any graphic images.

"Dignity is a factor that should be taken into account. It's an issue of ethics and professionalism, and now we can see that it does have physical and psychological ramifications," noted Strous in the statement.