Shalom Life | August 31, 2014

One in Three Post-Partum Women Suffers PTSD Symptoms After Giving Birth

Natural births a major cause of post-traumatic stress, says a Tel Aviv University researcher

By: Sarah Lubelski and Stephen Adler

Published: August 14th, 2012 in Health » World

One in Three Post-Partum Women Suffers PTSD Symptoms After Giving Birth

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops in individuals who experience highly traumatizing situations such as terrorist attacks and car accidents, but symptoms can also come about after normal life events — including childbirth.

A Tel Aviv University (TAU) researcher has found that approximately one third of all post-partum women exhibit some symptoms of PTSD, while a smaller percentage develop full-blown PTSD following the ordeal of labour. This surprising finding indicates a relatively high prevalence of the disorder, says Prof. Rael Strous of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, who completed the study along with Dr. Inbal Shlomi Polachek of the Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center and Liat Harari and Micha Baum of the Sheba Medical Center.

Of those women who developed post-traumatic symptoms, 80 percent opted for natural childbirth without pain relief. Other significant factors identified include the woman's body image (including discomfort with being in an undressed state for the relatively prolonged period of labour and undergoing elective Caesarean sections), fear during labour, and complications in the present and earlier pregnancies and labours.

The study was published in IMAJ, the Israel Medical Association Journal.

The debate over whether or not childbirth qualifies as a “traumatic event” is still controversial. Although childbirth is not a sudden and unexpected event like an accident, childbirth is accompanied by a very real and justified fear of danger, as expectant mothers worry for not just their own safety but also for the health and well-being of their babies, says Prof. Strous.

Researchers interviewed 89 post-partum women between the ages of 20 and 40, first within 2 to 5 days after delivery and then again one month after delivery. They discovered that of these participants, 25.9 percent displayed symptoms of post-trauma, 7.8 percent suffered from partial post-trauma, and 3.4 percent exhibited symptoms of full-blown PTSD. Symptoms included flashbacks of the labour, the avoidance of discussion of the event, physical reactions such as heart palpitations during such discussions, and a reluctance to consider having another child.

According to Prof. Strous, one of the most influential factors was pain management during delivery. Of the women who experienced partial or full post-trauma symptoms, 80 percent had gone through a natural childbirth, without any form of pain relief. "The less pain relief there was, the higher the woman's chances of developing post-partum PTSD," he said. Of the women who did not develop any PTSD symptoms, only 48 percent experienced a natural childbirth.

A full 80 percent of the PTSD group reported feeling discomfort with being unclothed, and 67 percent had previous pregnancies which they described as traumatic. Fear of the labour itself, both in terms of expected pain levels and danger to themselves and their children, was also influential. The researchers discovered to their surprise that support during labour, in the form of a midwife or doula, had no impact when it came to avoiding post-traumatic symptoms. Factors such as socioeconomic and marital status, level of education, and religion also had no effect.

Beyond gathering information about prevalence, Prof. Strous and his fellow researchers wanted to gain insight into possible risk factors for developing post-traumatic symptoms and ascertain methods for minimizing its impact. He suggests that doctors become familiar with the profile of women who are more disposed to suffer from post-traumatic symptoms, and be on the look-out for warning signs after labour. He also advocates additional research into the phenomenon to develop better treatment plans and making more resources available for affected women.

There are some immediate steps medical professionals can take, Prof. Strous says, including better counselling about pain relief and making sure that patients’ bodies are properly covered during delivery. "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," he says.

Whey Good News for Diabetics Whey Good News for Diabetics TrendingStudy: An Overwhelming 86% of Israelis Are Happy, Despite the Conflict Study: An Overwhelming 86% of Israelis Are Happy, Despite the Conflict TrendingIsraeli Company Combines Style And Technology To Save Lives Israeli Company Combines Style And Technology To Save Lives Trending
 

The Ten Best Curb Your Enthusiasm Episodes

August 29, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau & Daniel Koren
The Ten Best Curb Your Enthusiasm Episodes

While Season 9 may be a mere fallacy, we do have 8 seasons of Larry David's hilariously awkward comedy to keep us company

Read More

'Ray Donovan' Creator Ann Biderman Leaves Show

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
'Ray Donovan' Creator Ann Biderman Leaves Show

Writer David Hollander will take the helm of the Showtime series starring Liev Schreiber

Read More

Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart's Directorial Debut [VIDEO]

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart's Directorial Debut [VIDEO]

'Rosewater' will hit a theater near you in November

Read More

Joaquin Phoenix to Play Marvel's Dr. Strange?

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Joaquin Phoenix to Play Marvel's Dr. Strange?

Reports indicate that Phoenix is in final talks to play the wizard warrior in a new Marvel franchise

Read More

Bryan Singer Investigated for Alleged Sex Crime

August 29, 2014 | By Ashley Ramnarain
Bryan Singer Investigated for Alleged Sex Crime

According to sources, the NYPD is looking into a claim that Singer sexually assaulted a man in his twenties

Read More

Spanish Imam Asks Allah to Destroy All the Jews [VIDEO]

August 29, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Spanish Imam Asks Allah to Destroy All the Jews [VIDEO]

In a Friday sermon, Sheik Saleheoldine al-Moussaoui says the Jews are "by nature treacherous and war-mongering"

Read More

Al-Qaeda Presents: Terrorism 101, A Guide on Making Bombs and Choosing Targets

August 29, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Al-Qaeda Presents: Terrorism 101, A Guide on Making Bombs and Choosing Targets

The terrorist organization has released a detailed booklet on how to make pressure cooker bombs, and which U.S., U.K., and Israeli targets should be attacked

Read More

Putin Compares Ukrainian Army to the Nazis

August 29, 2014 | By Daniel Koren
Putin Compares Ukrainian Army to the Nazis

The Russian President condemned Ukrainian troops firing at civilians in eastern Ukraine who he said are "suppressed with force"

Read More

More Headlines