When we hear the phrase post-traumatic stress disorder, our minds often go to victims of war. However, new data shows that a very familiar experience can also result in PTSD. The stress of having a child can also trigger the illness.
Per new study results out of Tel Aviv University, more than 30 percent of women experienced PTSD symptoms after delivery, and several were actually diagnosed with the disorder. Interestingly, having the support of a midwife did not help. Being married, educated, and having religious beliefs also did not keep symptoms at bay.
Investigators spoke with 89 women aged 20 to 40 who had recently delivered a child. Interviews were first conducted within five days of birth and then within one month of returning home with the newborn.
Of those interviewed more than a quarter displayed signs of PTSD. Like others suffering from traumatic events, these women had a hard time talking about it and experienced racing heart rates when they did. Many even admitted that the process made them shun the thought of having more children.
Two main precursors for the development of PTSD stood out – discomfort with being disrobed and the fear of complications. Approximately 80 percent of those diagnosed expressed uneasiness at being exposed, and 67 percent of this group had prior pregnancy problems. Having a C-section and being overly fearful of the birthing process also increased probability of developing symptoms.
Natural childbirth and the absence of painkillers yielded the highest likelihood of PTSD. An overwhelming 80 percent of women who later developed PTSD delivered without drugs. Results imply that doctors can ease symptoms by having a good understanding of risk factors and by educating patients regarding pain management. Helping women feel informed and comfortable is also an important part of the process.
PTSD can be debilitating. Side effects include mood swings, lack of sleep, trouble focusing, and difficultly with normal, everyday functioning. While many struggle, there is no need to suffer in silence. Family Guidance Center provides assessments and and professional mental health services to help women, and their families, get their lives back on track.