Raising Women’s Voices

Birth Trauma: Stress Disorder Afflicts Moms

Posted in Maternity Care by raisingwomensvoices on August 5, 2008

Amid the debate over how to effectively manage maternal mental-health disorders, a new type of postpartum illness is gaining attention: post-traumatic-stress disorder due to childbirth.

PTSD is most commonly associated with combat veterans and victims of violent crime, but medical experts say it also can be brought on by a very painful or complicated labor and delivery in which a woman believes she or her baby might die. Symptoms can include anxiety, flashbacks and a numbness to daily life. Even as medical advances have resulted in many more lives saved during high-risk births, extreme medical interventions can leave a mother severely stressed — especially if she feels powerless or mistreated by health providers.PTSD is much less common than postpartum depression, which has become better-understood by the public as celebrities like actress Brooke Shields and former CIA agent Valerie Plame have spoken out about their experiences. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that postpartum depression affects 15% of mothers.

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