January 2016 Research Update

Middle range theory of traumatic childbirth: The ever –widening ripple effect.

Beck, C. T.


A middle range theory of traumatic childbirth was developed using Morse’s method of theoretical coalescence. The scope of this qualitative theory was increased by formalizing the connections between 14 individual studies all conducted by the same researcher on the same topic, with different groups, using different research designs and different types of analyses. Axioms were derived from this research program along with attributes of traumatic childbirth, posttraumatic stress, and secondary traumatic stress. This middle range theory addresses the long-term chronic consequences of a traumatic birth for mothers including its impact on breastfeeding, subsequent childbirth, and the anniversary of birth trauma. The impact on fathers and clinicians present at the traumatic birth is highlighted as secondary traumatic stress comes into play. Troubling glimpses of difficulties in mother–infant bonding are revealed.




Shaken belief in the birth process: A mixed methods study of secondary traumatic stress in certified nurse-midwives.

Beck, C. T., LoGiudice, J., & Gable, R. K.



Secondary traumatic stress (STS) is an occupational hazard for clinicians who can experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from exposure to their traumatized patients. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to determine the prevalence and severity of STS in certified nurse-midwives (CNMs) and to explore their experiences attending traumatic births.


A convergent, parallel mixed-methods design was used. The American Midwifery Certification Board sent out e-mails to all their CNM members with a link to the SurveyMonkey study. The STS Scale was used to collect data for the quantitative strand. For the qualitative strand, participants were asked to describe their experiences of attending one or more traumatic births. IBM SPSS 21.0 (Version 21.0, Armonk, NY) was used to analyze the quantitative data, and Krippendorff content analysis was the method used to analyze the qualitative data.


The sample consisted of 473 CNMs who completed the quantitative portion and 246 (52%) who completed the qualitative portion. In this sample, 29% of the CNMs reported high to severe STS, and 36% screened positive for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition diagnostic criteria for PTSD due to attending traumatic births. The top 3 types of traumatic births described by the CNMs were fetal demise/neonatal death, shoulder dystocia, and infant resuscitation. Content analysis revealed 6 themes: 1) protecting my patients: agonizing sense of powerlessness and helplessness; 2) wreaking havoc: trio of posttraumatic stress symptoms; 3) circling the wagons: it takes a team to provide support … or not; 4) litigation: nowhere to go to unburden our souls; (5) shaken belief in the birth process: impacting midwifery practice; and 6 moving on: where do I go from here?




Improving Maternal Mental Health Following Preterm Birth Using an Expressive Writing Intervention: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

Horsch A, Tolsa JF, Gilbert L, du Chêne LJ, Müller-Nix C, Graz MB


Evaluations of evidence-based, easily accessible, psychological interventions to improve maternal mental health following very preterm birth are scarce. This study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of the expressive writing paradigm for mothers of very preterm infants. The level of maternal posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms was the primary outcome. Participants were 67 mothers of very preterm babies who were randomly allocated into the intervention (expressive writing; n = 33) or control group (treatment-as-usual; n = 32) when their infant was aged 3 months (corrected age, CA). Measurements were taken at 3 months (pre-intervention), 4 months (post-intervention), and 6 months CA (follow-up). Results showed reduced maternal posttraumatic stress (d = 0.42), depressive symptoms (d = 0.67), and an improved mental health status (d = 1.20) in the intervention group, which were maintained at follow-up. Expressive writing is a brief, cost-effective, and acceptable therapeutic approach that could be offered as part of the NICU care.




An Evidence Review and Model for Prevention and Treatment of Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Jane Vesel, Bonnie Nickasch.


Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (P-PTSD) is a variant of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that, although relatively prevalent, is under-researched. Up to one-third of women in the United States describe childbirth as traumatic, with 9 percent of women meeting the criteria for PTSD outlined by the American Psychiatric Association. These statistics are sobering in light of common use of analgesia during birth as well as hospital birth environments promoting family-centered maternity care. How can a seemingly natural event, such as childbirth, be associated with PTSD? This review includes a description of key variables associated with P-PTSD. Socioeconomic, environmental and genetic determinants are discussed, as are evidence-based prevention and treatment approaches.




Post-traumatic stress disorder following emergency peripartum hysterectomy.

de la Cruz CZ, Coulter M, O’Rourke K, Mbah AK, Salihu HM.



Our objective was to explore if women who experience emergency peripartum hysterectomy (EPH), a type of severe maternal morbidity, are more likely to screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to women who did not experience EPH.


Using a retrospective cohort design, women were sampled through online communities. Participants completed online screens for PTSD. Additionally, women provided sociodemographic, obstetric, psychiatric, and psychosocial information. We conducted bivariate and logistic regression analyses, then Monte Carlo simulation and propensity score matching to calculate the risk of screening positive for PTSD after EPH.


74 exposed women (experienced EPH) and 335 non-exposed women (did not experience EPH) completed the survey. EPH survivors were nearly two times more likely to screen positive for PTSD (aOR: 1.90; 95 % CI: 1.57, 2.30), and nearly 2.5 times more likely to screen positive for PTSD at 6 months postpartum compared to women who were not EPH survivors (aOR: 2.46; 95 % CI: 1.92, 3.16).


The association of EPH and PTSD was statistically significant, indicating a need for further research, and the potential need for support services for these women following childbirth.




Predisposing and Precipitating Factors for Dissociation During Labor in a Cohort Study of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Childbearing Outcomes.

Choi KR, Seng JS.



Peritraumatic dissociation is an important predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and impaired bonding following childbirth. The purpose of this study was to follow up on an earlier finding that peritraumatic dissociation in labor was associated with adverse postpartum outcomes by identifying predictors of dissociation in labor.


This analysis used data from a prospective cohort study of primiparous women from southeast Michigan. There were 564 women included in the analysis; the primary outcome measure was the Peritraumatic Dissociative Experiences Questionnaire (PDEQ) score measuring dissociation during labor.


The prevalence of dissociation in labor for this sample was 7.4%. Important predictors of dissociation in labor included both predisposing (eg, childhood maltreatment trauma, preexisting psychopathology) and precipitating (eg, perception of care, negative appraisal of labor) factors. Overall, these predictors explained 14.7% of variance in PDEQ score. In 3 separate, simple linear regression models, the PDEQ score explained 20% of variance in postpartum PTSD, 13% of variance in postpartum depression, and 9% of variance in impaired bonding.


Women with maltreatment history and PTSD are at risk to be retraumatized or overwhelmed by birth and to dissociate. Although it would be optimal to assess for dissociative coping prenatally, assessing with the PDEQ following birth could contribute to evaluation of risk for postpartum psychopathology.




Impact of Monochorionicity and Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome on Prenatal Attachment, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety and Depressive Symptoms.

Beauquier-Maccotta B, Chalouhi GE, Picquet AL, Carrier A, Bussières L, Golse B, Ville Y.


Monochronioric (MC) twin pregnancies are considered as high-risk pregnancies with potential complications requiring in-utero interventions. We aimed to assess prenatal attachment, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive symptoms in MC pregnancies complicated with Twin-To-Twin-transfusion syndrome (TTTS) in comparison to uncomplicated monochorionic (UMC) and dichorionic pregnancies (DC). Auto-questionnaires were filled out at diagnosis of TTTS and at successive milestones. Prenatal attachment, PTSD, anxiety and perinatal depression were evaluated respectively by the Prenatal Attachment Inventory (PAI) completed for each twin, the Post-traumatic Checklist Scale (PCLS), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Edinburgh Perinatal Depression Scale (EPDS). There was no significant difference in the PAI scores between the two twins. In the DC and UMC groups, PAI scores increased throughout pregnancy, whilst it didn’t for TTTS group. TTTS and DC had a similar prenatal attachment while MC mothers expressed a significantly higher attachment to their fetuses and expressed it earlier. At the announcement of TTTS, 72% of the patients present a score over the threshold at the EPDS Scale, with a higher score for TTTS than for DC (p = 0.005), and UMC (p = 0.007) at the same GA. 30% of mothers in TTTS group have PTSD during pregnancy. 50% of TTTS- patients present an anxiety score over the threshold (STAI-Scale), with a score significantly higher in TTTS than in UMC (p<0.001) or DC (p<0.001). The proportion of subject with a STAI-State over the threshold is also significantly higher in TTTS than in DC at 20 GW (p = 0.01) and at 26 GW (p<0.05). The STAI-state scores in UMC and DC increase progressively during pregnancy while they decrease significantly in TTTS. TTTS announcement constitutes a traumatic event during a pregnancy with an important risk of PTSD, high level of anxiety and an alteration of the prenatal attachment. These results should guide the psychological support provided to these patients.





Muzik M, McGinnis EW, Bocknek E, Morelen D, Rosenblum KL, Liberzon I, Seng J, Abelson JL.



Little is known about trajectories of PTSD symptoms across the peripartum period in women with trauma histories, specifically those who met lifetime PTSD diagnoses prior to pregnancy. The present study seeks to identify factors that influence PTSD symptom load across pregnancy and early postpartum, and study its impact on postpartum adaptation.


The current study is a secondary analysis on pregnant women with a Lifetime PTSD diagnosis (N = 319) derived from a larger community sample who were interviewed twice across pregnancy (28 and 35 weeks) and again at 6 weeks postpartum, assessing socioeconomic risks, mental health, past and ongoing trauma exposure, and adaptation to postpartum.


Using trajectory analysis, first we examined the natural course of PTSD symptoms based on patterns across peripartum, and found four distinct trajectory groups. Second, we explored factors (demographic, historical, and gestational) that shape the PTSD symptom trajectories, and examined the impact of trajectory membership on maternal postpartum adaptation. We found that child abuse history, demographic risk, and lifetime PTSD symptom count increased pregnancy-onset PTSD risk, whereas gestational PTSD symptom trajectory was best predicted by interim trauma and labor anxiety. Women with the greatest PTSD symptom rise during pregnancy were most likely to suffer postpartum depression and reported greatest bonding impairment with their infants at 6 weeks postpartum.


Screening for modifiable risks (interpersonal trauma exposure and labor anxiety) and /or PTSD symptom load during pregnancy appears critical to promote maternal wellbeing.




Depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms following termination of pregnancy in South African women: A longitudinal study measuring the effects of chronic burden, crisis support and resilience.

Subramaney U, Wyatt GE, Williams JK, Zhang M, Liu HH, Chin D.



Termination of pregnancy (TOP) remains a controversial issue, regardless of legislation. Access to services as well as psychological effects may vary across the world.


To better understand the psychological effects of TOP, this study describes the circumstances of 102 women who underwent a TOP from two socioeconomic sites in Johannesburg, South Africa, one serving women with few economic resources and the other serving women with adequate resources. The relationship between demographic characteristics, resilience and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression before, 1 month after and 3 months after the procedure was also examined.


Time since TOP, age, chronic burden, resilience and the interaction of site with religion and site with chronic burden were significant. In addition, site differences were found for religion and chronic burden in predicting depression scores. Women from both sites had significant decreases in depression scores over time. The interaction of time with site was not significant. Higher chronic burden scores correlated with higher depression scores. No variables were significant in the bivariate analysis for PTSD.


Resilience, religion and chronic burden emerge as significant variables in women undergoing a first-trimester TOP, and warrant further assessment in studies of this nature.




The Association of Family Support After Childbirth With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Women With Preeclampsia.

Soltani N, Abedian Z, Mokhber N, Esmaily H.



Stressful situations and life-threatening issues such as preeclampsia can lead to Post-traumatic stress disorders [PTSD]. It seems that within social supports, family support has more effect on mental health.


The aim of this study was to determine the association between family supports in the postpartum period with occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder following preeclampsia.


In this descriptive longitudinal study, 100 women with preeclampsia admitted in government hospitals of Mashhad were selected using convenience sampling. Post-traumatic stress disorder was diagnosed by psychiatrist interview and perinatal posttraumatic stress questionnaire (PPQ) in sixth week postpartum and family support was measured by family support scale (FSS) in second and sixth weeks postpartum. Data analyzed by SPSS 16 using Spearman correlation coefficient, paired sample T-test and Kruskal-Wallis test.


A reverse significant association was found between family support in weeks 2 and 6 (92.6 ± 22.6, 83.7 ± 21.6, respectively) and PTSD (mean score of 4.8 ± 2.5) (respectively, P = 0.010 and P =0.011). The most important variables affecting PTSD with presence of family support in weeks 2 and 6 were postpartum depression in week 6 as well as trait anxiety at the time of admission.


The more support in weeks 2 and 6 postpartum, the less PTSD occurs. Therefore, it is suggested to health care providers who face mothers after delivery to evaluate the support received by mothers and help those with inadequate or inappropriate support.




Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after childbirth and the influence of maternity team care during labour and birth: A cohort study.

De Schepper S, Vercauteren T, Tersago J, Jacquemyn Y, Raes F, Franck E.


OBJECTIVE: we examined the prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the role of personal and obstetric risk factors, as well as the role of midwifery team care factors in a cohort of Flemish women.

DESIGN: prospective cohort study. Data collection was performed at two times post partum: During the first week, socio-demographic and obstetric data as well as information related to midwifery team care factors were assessed using self-report measures. To asses PTSD symptomatology, the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R) and the Traumatic Event Scale (TES) were used. At six weeks post partum, PTSD symptoms were reassessed either by telephone interviews or e-mail. Results were calculated in frequencies, means and standard deviations. Differences between week one and six were analysed using parametrical and non-parametrical statistics. Multiple and logistic regression was performed to determine risk factors for PTSD symptomatology. P-value was set at 0.05.

SETTING: maternity wards in Flanders, Belgium.

PARTICIPANTS: the first (week 1) and follow-up (week 6) sample of the data collection consisted of 340 and 229 women respectively.

RESULTS:  the prevalence of PTSD symptoms after childbirth ranged from 22% to 24% in the first week and from 13% to 20% at six weeks follow-up. Multiple regression analysis showed that Islamic belief, a traumatic childbirth experience, family income <€2500, a history of psychological or psychiatric consults and labour/birth with complications significantly predicted PTSD symptomatology at six weeks post-birth. Midwifery team care and the opportunity to ask questions, as well as experiencing a normal physiological birth were significantly associated with less postnatal PTSD symptoms.

KEY CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTISE: the results of this study suggest that contextual factors such as religion, socio-economic status, and childbirth experience might be important factors to address by the midwifery team. Midwifery team care factors such as ‘providing the opportunity to the mother to ask questions’ and the ‘perception of the midwife being in control’ proved to be potential protective factors for postnatal PTSD symptoms. Despite its prevalence, PTSD symptoms after birth are not yet well understood by health care workers. Further research concerning the influence of midwifery team care factors on developing childbirth related PTSD is required.



Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar