Washington D.C.: When post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) meets pregnancy, healing starts off in many women, according to a recent study.
Contrary to what researchers expected, the University of Michigan study shows that pregnancy may actually reduce the PTSD symptoms or at the least, it won’t cause a flare-up.
For about one in four women with PTSD, the opposite is true, the researchers find. Not only do their symptoms get worse as their pregnancy goes on, but their ability to bond with their newborn suffers and they face a high risk of post-partum depression.
The findings highlight the need to screen pregnant women for possible undiagnosed PTSD.
More than half of the 319 women in the study had high PTSD symptoms in the first part of pregnancy and all members of this group experienced a decrease as they got closer to giving birth. Women who had low levels of symptoms early on stayed about the same.
But for some, PTSD got worse as pregnancy went on. Those who suffered a new stress or trauma during pregnancy or who had the most anxiety about giving birth had the worst experience with PTSD symptoms during pregnancy and post-birth problems.
Psychiatrist Maria Muzik, who led the study, said that they hope the results give a message of hope that women who have a past diagnosis of PTSD aren’t all headed for a worsening while they’re pregnant.
But they also have highlighted a vulnerable group that has a heightened risk of worsening symptom and postnatal issues that could have lasting effects for both mother and child.
The study is published in the journal Depression and Anxiety.