Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
What is Postpartum PTSD?
Postpartum PTSD is a moderately common (9% of postpartum women) perinatal mood & anxiety disorder (PMAD). It is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum.
These traumas can include:
- Emergency c-section
- Prolapsed cord
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Premature birth
- Infant in NICU
- Forceps/vacuum extraction
- Severe pre-eclampsia
- 3rd or 4th degree tearing
- Hyperemesis Gravidarum
- Traumatic vaginal birth
What are the risk factors for Postpartum PTSD?
The main risk factors for postpartum PTSD include:
- Neonatal complications
- Lower gestational age
- Greater length of stay in NICU
- A previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse
What are the symptoms of Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
- Panic attacks (episodes of extreme anxiety)
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event (flashbacks and flooding)
- Distressing memories, thoughts, feelings or external reminders of the event
- Spontaneous memories of the traumatic event
- Recurrent dreams or nightmares
- Isolation from family and friends
- Persistent and distorted sense of blame of self or others
- Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance)
- Avoidance of triggers
- Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
What is the treatment for Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Treatment plans will vary for each woman, but can include any or all of the following:
- Therapy (including psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and group therapy). This helps the woman re-process the traumatic experience, understand her reaction to it, and reframe the experience in a better light.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), a type of therapy that involves using the woman's eye movement to decrease the intensity of the emotions related to a traumatic event.
- Hypnosis, acupuncture, or other complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies
Who can help diagnose/treat Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
- Mental Health Practitioner