Childbirth related PTSD and its association with infant outcome: A systematic review

Sofie Van Sieleghem*, Marina Danckaerts, Rob Rieken, Jolanda M.E. Okkerse, Ellen de Jonge, Wichor M. Bramer, Mijke P. Lambregtse - van den Berg

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: Maternal postnatal mental health problems may negatively impact child development. Postpartum research has mainly focused on the impact of maternal depression and anxiety due to their high prevalence (13–25 % and 10–18 %, respectively). However, maternal childbirth-related PTSD (CB-PTSD) could be another important risk factor in child development (estimated prevalence: 4.7 %). Objective: We investigated whether maternal CB-PTSD (symptoms) are associated with a negative mother-child relationship and/or child developmental outcome for children aged 0–5 years. Furthermore, we examined whether maternal trauma-focused therapy can positively impact mother and child outcomes. Methods: We performed a systematic review by searching three databases (Embase, Medline, PsycInfo). Search terms involved: ‘birth or delivery modes’, ‘PTSD psychological trauma’, and ‘child development or child behavior’. Two independent reviewers evaluated all eligible papers. Results: Thirty-five papers (30 samples) were included and qualitatively reported. Results suggest a negative association of maternal CB-PTSD (symptoms) with mother-infant attachment and child behavior. However, confounding factors may explain this association. The evidence on associations with breastfeeding, sleeping, socio-emotional development, and weight gain is insufficient. Research investigating the effect of maternal trauma-focused therapy on a child's outcome is scarce, contradictory, and of low quality. Conclusion: This systematic review suggests that maternal CB-PTSD may be associated with an increased number of problems in mother-infant attachment and child behavior, but other domains remain scarcely investigated and methodologic issues are present (cross-sectional study design, influence of confounding variables, sample representativeness, diversity in assessment tools). Our results support a multidisciplinary approach to providing early prevention and screening of the maternal mental health state.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105667
JournalEarly Human Development
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

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