Women who are pregnant and have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are much more likely to give birth to a premature baby than those without the mental disorder.
Jonathan Shaw, MD, of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and colleagues examined the births of more than 16,000 babies to female veterans. Mothers with PTSD were identified as having either active PTSD (diagnosis in the year prior to delivery) or historical PTSD (diagnosis more than a year prior to delivery).
Mothers who had an active PTSD diagnosis were 35% more likely to have a spontaneous premature delivery (more than three weeks early), the researchers reported in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Spontaneous births account for six out of every 100 deliveries in the general population.
The researchers also found that if a woman had PTSD in the past but had no symptoms in the year prior to birth, the risk of giving birth prematurely was no higher than for women who never experienced PTSD.
After looking at other health problems that might influence the risk of premature birth, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, tobacco use or other metnal health disorders, the researchers concluded that those factors had little impact.
“Stress is setting off biologic pathways that are inducing preterm labor,” Ciaran Phibbs, PhD, a co-author of the study also with Stanford, said in a statement, adding that mothers with PTSD should be considered high-risk pregnancies.
Pregnant women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at increased risk of giving birth prematurely, a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has found.
The study, which examined more than 16,000 births to female veterans, is the largest ever to evaluate connections between PTSD and preterm birth. Having PTSD in the year before delivery increased a woman’s risk of spontaneous premature delivery by 35 percent, the research, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, showed.