Women with Post-Traumatic Stress More Likely to Have Premature Babies

Women who are pregnant who and who also have post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) suffer more severe symptoms than others do, including nightmares, irritability, and insomnia. Now a new study finds that a mother’s PTSS can adversely affect her baby.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that women suffering from PTSS and childhood abuse are more likely to give birth to low-weight and premature babies.

The research team followed 839 women from August 2005 to August 2008, and found that women with PTSS gave birth to babies that weighed an average one-half pound lighter than average. They also found that childhood abuse in this group was correlated with low birth weight in their babies. African-American women were not at higher risk for PTSS, but they were four times more likely to remain affected by PTSS at the time they delivered their babies. The research team speculated that the reason is that group is not likely to receive treatment for PTSS.

“Preterm birth can cause serious health problems for babies,” said Julia Seng, associate professor of nursing at the UM Institute for Research on Women and Gender. “PTSS affects African-Americans more widely, and may be an additional explanation for adverse perinatal outcomes, and it is a problem that is treatable.”

A previous study published four months earlier, also from the same group at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, found that the rate of PTSS is 6% to 8% among pregnant women compared to only 4% and 5% among women who are not pregnant. That study also found that pregnant women with PTSS have more severe symptoms in five areas: anger, detachment, loss of interest, irritability, sleep problems, and nightmares. The Michigan authors indicated that more research is needed for pregnancy-specific interventions for PTSS.

That study appeared in the Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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