Study reveals childbirth as cause of post-traumatic stress
A new study suggests that the number of women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth is relatively high.
The research, carried out at Tel Aviv University, found that approximately one third of the 89 mothers interviewed had some symptoms of PTSD – with 3.4% exhibiting symptoms of full-blown PTSD.
The recorded symptoms included flashbacks, avoidance of discussing the childbirth, heart palpitations and reluctance to have another child.
According to the study, the major factor of the post-traumatic stress was the women’s choice of pain control.
80% of the women who experienced full or partial symptoms had chosen a natural birth without pain relief. Other factors that were believed to have increased the risk of PTSD were whether the women felt discomfort about her body, how fearful she felt in labour and any complications in current or previous pregnancies and labour.
Professor Rael Strouss, lead researcher, said that while the childbirth may not be an unexpected event, there can also be 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”.
Strouss suggests that doctors should be more familiar with those who are more susceptible to post-traumatic symptoms and to look for warning signs after labour.
Other suggestions include more counselling regarding pain relief and ensuring women’s 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 said.
The Birth Trauma Association estimates that around 10,000 women in the UK alone develop PTSD due to a traumatic birth experience. In addition, up to 200,000 women may develop some of the symptoms.