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Abuse-Related PTSD Linked to Poor Perinatal Outcomes

Last Updated: July 29, 2011.

Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with adverse perinatal outcomes of lower birth weight and shorter gestation, particularly in childhood abuse survivors, according to a study published online July 27 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

FRIDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with adverse perinatal outcomes of lower birth weight and shorter gestation, particularly in childhood abuse survivors, according to a study published online July 27 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Julia S. Seng, Ph.D., C.N.M., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues investigated the extent to which PTSD is associated with lower birth weight and shorter gestation, and they explored the effects of childhood maltreatment as the antecedent trauma exposure. A total of 839 nulliparous women, including 307 trauma-exposed but PTSD-negative, 255 PTSD-positive, and 277 not exposed to trauma, were included in the analysis. The women were interviewed telephonically before 28 weeks of pregnancy to assess PTSD, trauma and mental health treatment history, substance use, and sociodemographics. Data on antepartum complications, prenatal care, and associated outcomes were obtained from chart abstractions. Infant birth weight and gestational age per delivery record were the main outcome measures.

The investigators found that women who suffered from PTSD during pregnancy had babies with lower average birth weight compared to women in the trauma-exposed group and not-exposed group (283 grams and 221 grams less, respectively). In multivariate models, PTSD correlated with shorter gestation in childhood abuse survivors. PTSD after exposure to childhood abuse trauma was most strongly correlated with adverse outcomes. Compared to African-American race, PTSD was a stronger marker of shorter gestation, and nearly equal predictor of birth weight. Prenatal care did not correlate with better outcomes in women who faced childhood abuse.

"Abuse-related PTSD may be an additional or alternative explanation for adverse perinatal outcomes associated with low socioeconomic status and African-American race in the United States," the authors write.

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