Wednesday, January 20, 2016

As many as 9% of Women in the United States develop PTSD after Childbirth

Washington, DC, January 20, 2016– More than a third of women describe their labor and birth experience as traumatic, with many displaying severe traumatic stress responses in the postpartum period.  Although widespread, postpartum PTSD (P-PTSD) is under-researched, and some women who would meet the criteria for P-PTSD are misdiagnosed by their healthcare providers due to lack of knowledge and understanding about this issue.

In “An Evidence Review and Model for Prevention and Treatment of Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Jane Vessel, DNP, CNM, and Bonnie Nickasch, DNP, APNP, FNP-BC, explore the factors that may be associated with P-PTSD.  Their review, published in the December 2015/January 2016 issue of Nursing for Women’s Health, the clinical practice journal of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN), examines the correlation between traumatic experiences during childbirth and the development of P-PTSD.

Traumatic childbirth can arise from  factors such as high levels of medical intervention during labor, long and painful labor, or a perceived lack of support. Other risk factors for P-PTSD include depression or anxiety during pregnancy, history of mental health problems, and history of prior trauma (e.g., sexual assault or experience of loss or death of loved ones).  As a result, the authors recommend that obstetric care clinicians obtain a patient history that queries for past traumatic events, previous birth experiences, depression and anxiety, and intimate partner violence.  Integrating education about mental health into maternity and pediatric care can  help nurses and other clinicians identify women who may be at risk for P-PTSD.

“Proper screening during pregnancy can help detect early symptoms of mental or emotional distress,” said AWHONN CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN.  “Through early detection, nurses can better manage mood and anxiety disorders, which helps promote the health and well-being of women and their children.”

P-PTSD and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can affect a woman’s health, her ability to connect with her child, her relationship with her partner, and her child’s long-term health and development. More work must be done to understand the experience of traumatic birth to reduce the potential development of P-PTSD.

For media interviews, contact:
Kelly Mack for AWHONN


About Nursing for Women’s Health
Nursing for Women’s Health is a bimonthly refereed clinical practice journal of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. The journal circulates to more than 25,000 nurses who care for women and newborns and is available online at

Since 1969, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority  promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women’s health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States.  Learn more about AWHONN at