The first few months

Welcome to our latest blog.  It is five months since the International Network for Perinatal PTSD published its first blog.  At that time, the Network comprised a small group of interested parties and a web-site.  Today, we have 76 subscribers, a twitter feed and have published a number of communications.  This week, we thought that we would take stock of how we are doing, what you can get from the network and how you can get involved.

How are we doing?
Our subscribers and members are located across the globe, from America, Australia, Japan and a number of European countries, as well as the United Kingdom.  The members all have a special interest in perinatal PTSD, and come from backgrounds in academia, clinical psychology and the charity sector.

The aim of the network is to disseminate research about perinatal PTSD – and to stimulate discussion both about research that has been completed and research that needs to be done.  To that end, we have published a number of blogs, including consideration of the impact of DSM-V on perinatal PTSD, predicting and measuring perinatal PTSD, treating perinatal PTSD and the impact of childbirth upon fathers.  Further blogs are planned for the very near future.

What can you get from the network?
You can access information about research into perinatal PTSD, including our pre-set search on PubMed here. As the network grows, there will be greater opportunities for information sharing and collaboration with others.  Also, since the network is still at a relatively young stage, there is scope for us all to shape its direction in a way that satisfies the needs of our members, subscribers and visitors – one reason for you to get involved…

How can you get involved?
Our members and subscribers have a great deal of knowledge and experience in this area so please contribute to the network through commenting on blogs, sending us your own blog articles, and letting us know of any relevant talks, events or conferences so we can publicise these and let other members know about them.

We would like the blog to be representative of the Network’s focus on sharing knowledge.   Comments relating to the blogs are encouraged – we are always interested to hear your views – and there have been a wide range of replies and comments to the blogs posted to date.  In addition, we are trying to increase awareness of PTSD and encourage network membership through social media:  our twitter feed already has 37 followers!

So, the message this week is that we are attracting steadily increasing numbers of subscribers and members from all over the globe.  We are working hard to raise the profile of perinatal PTSD through a variety of mechanisms – and we want all of our members and subscribers to be able to join in offering their expertise and experience, whether that be writing a blog, giving us ideas for developing the Network, identifying topics that should be covered in the blogs, raising the profile of the Network, re-tweeting us or just carrying on reading our pages.  Working together to raise the profile of perinatal PTSD, to learn more about it and to find the best way to treat it – or even to protect against it.

Twitter:  @birthPTSD

What about the Dads………

By Ylva Parfitt, PhD student, University of Sussex

It is now well established that some mothers suffer from posttraumatic stress (PTSD) following childbirth, but what about the dads?  In principle, fathers who witness a difficult or complicated birth may also experience symptoms of PTSD. However, research concerning PTSD in fathers is still scarce.

Qualitative studies (Eriksson, Salander & Hamberg, 2007; White, 2007) and quantitative studies (Johnson, 2002; Skari et al., 2002) suggest that men can experience intense fear and raised stress related to the birth of their baby. For example, Skari et al. (2002) found that 37% of mothers and 13% of fathers reported psychological distress with severe intrusive symptoms in 2% of fathers and 6% of mothers a few days after birth, reducing to 2% six months after birth for both genders. However, it is unclear whether men develop full symptoms of PTSD following childbirth.  Bradley, Slade & Leviston’s (2008) quantitative investigation of PTSD in men six weeks after birth failed to find any cases of fully symptomatic PTSD, although 12% of men had symptoms on at least one dimension (mainly hyperarousal). In this study, PTSD symptoms in fathers were associated with trait anxiety, fewer children, unplanned pregnancy and being at the birth. In their recent review of mental health problems in fathers following childbirth, Bradley and Slade (2011) concluded that fathers attending the birth could experience intrusive thoughts and images, especially those who did not feel that they supported their partners sufficiently during the labour and birth.

If either parent suffers from PTSD this may have implications for their relationship with the baby (Muzik et al, 2013; Parfitt & Ayers, 2009). However, again research is limited and findings are inconclusive. One study of mothers and fathers found that PTSD symptoms were more strongly associated with bonding impairment than symptoms of depression (Parfitt and Ayers 2009), whilst another did not find any links between maternal PTSD symptoms and parenting stress (McDonald, Slade, Spiby & Iles 2011). A recent study using videos to examine interaction between fathers and infants found that symptoms of PTSD and depression were associated with less passive infant behavior and greater infant difficulty (Parfitt, Pike & Ayers, 2013).

There is currently very little research which has looked at the effects of PTSD symptoms in dads on their child’s development and well-being. In a study of PTSD symptoms in parents of preterm babies, Pierrehumbert, Muller-Nix, Forcada-Guex and Ansermet (2003) found that the severity of PTSD symptoms was associated with the child’s sleeping and eating problems at 18 months of age. Interestingly, eating problems were significantly associated with higher levels of PTSD symptoms in fathers, but not in mothers.

The lack of research in this area makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions at this time but it is clear that dads need to be considered more in research looking at postpartum PTSD and the impact of this on the family.