About this Research Topic
It is estimated that around 130 million women give birth each year. While the wide-held belief is that birth is a happy event, women may experience a range of psychological problems in the postpartum period with enduring effects on both mother and infant health. Research and clinical care have given attention to mother’s potential depressive reaction in the postpartum period. Yet a significant minority of postpartum women may experience a more stress-related response in relation to the childbirth experience. This response is not limited to partus-related experiences of childbirth but can develop in women following a full-term delivery with healthy outcomes. This condition so called childbirth-related posttraumatic stress syndrome has been for the most part overlooked and it is only recently receiving growing scientific investigation.
Not surprisingly, childbirth entails rapid changes to the body often accompanied with sleep deprivation and intense labor pain. It has been noted that as many as a third of women appraise their childbirth experience to be traumatic with up to a quarter endorsing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms at a clinical level. Prevalence of full-blown childbirth-related PTSD is less clear, ranging from 3-12%. Factors such as maternal mental health, mode of delivery, and birth appraisal have been identified to account for the development of childbirth-related posttraumatic stress, although biological predictors are not known, nor are their association with psychological factors. Cultural expectations may further play a role in postpartum PTSD. Postpartum posttraumatic stress in the mother may hinder breastfeeding and child socio-emotional development, which may further worsen mother’s wellbeing, resulting in a vicious cycle. Possibly a transmission of traumatic reactions from the mother to offspring may occur during the early sensitive time period of child development. The implications on the infant have not been clearly understood.
Given that childbirth is a relatively predictable event (unlike other potentially traumatic events) there is a window of opportunity to identify at risk women and provide appropriate trauma-focused preventive treatment to optimize the heath trajectories of mothers and their babies. Targeted diagnosis and interventions are yet to be implemented as part of routine clinical care. Thus it is important to conduct research and gather empirical knowledge on postpartum posttraumatic stress to then inform and improve clinical care to meet the special needs of mothers.
This Research Topic is intended to provide a platform for the emerging studies on traumatic childbirth and childbirth-related posttraumatic stress syndrome and associated postpartum mental health conditions. We welcome the following submission formats: original quantitative or qualitative research, review, perspective, and case studies.
Keywords: childbirth, posttraumatic stress, parturition, postpartum, mental health