, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 453-463
Date: 25 Jun 2013

Changes in PTSD symptomatology and mental health during pregnancy and postpartum

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Abstract

Changes in mental health symptoms throughout pregnancy and postpartum may impact a woman’s experience and adjustment during an important time. However, few studies have investigated these changes throughout the perinatal period, particularly changes in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The purpose of this study was to examine longitudinal changes in PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptomatology during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnant women of ethnically diverse backgrounds receiving services for prenatal care at an outpatient obstetric-gynecology clinic or private physicians’ office were assessed by interview on symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and general stress up to four times, including their first, second, and third trimester, and postpartum visits. Overall, during pregnancy there was a declining trend of PTSD symptoms. For anxiety, there was no overall significant change over time; however, anxiety symptoms were individually variable in the rate of change. For both depression and general stress symptoms, there was a declining trend, which was also variable in the individual rate of change among women during their pregnancy. Visual and post hoc analyses also suggest a possible peak in PTSD symptoms in the weeks prior to delivery. While most mental health symptoms may generally decrease during pregnancy, given the individual variability among women in the rate of change in symptoms, screening and monitoring of symptom fluctuations throughout the course of pregnancy may be needed. Further studies are needed to examine potential spiking of symptoms in the perinatal period.