Review article| Volume 31, ISSUE 5, P367-379, October 2018

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Postnatal post-traumatic stress: An integrative review

Published:January 11, 2018DOI:



      Post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic stress symptoms following birth occur amongst a small proportion of women but can lead to poor maternal mental health, impairment in mother-infant bonding and relationship stress. This integrative review aims to examine the associated risk factors and women's own experiences of postnatal post-traumatic stress in order to better understand this phenomenon.


      Fifty three articles were included and critically reviewed using the relevant Critical Appraisal Skills Program checklists or Strengthening the Reporting of Observational studies in Epidemiology assessment tool.


      Risk factors for postnatal post-traumatic stress symptoms and disorder include factors arising before pregnancy, during the antenatal period, in labour and birth and in the postnatal period. Potential protective factors against postnatal post-traumatic stress have been identified in a few studies. The development of postnatal post-traumatic stress can lead to negative outcomes for women, infants and families.


      Risk factors for post-traumatic stress symptoms and disorder are potentially identifiable pre-pregnancy and during the antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal periods. Potential protective factors have been identified however they are presently under researched. Predictive models for postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder development have been proposed, however further investigation is required to test such models in a variety of settings.


      Postnatal post-traumatic stress symptoms and disorder have been shown to negatively impact the lives of childbearing women. Further investigation into methods and models for identifying women at risk of developing postnatal post-traumatic stress following childbirth is required in order to improve outcomes for this population of women.


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