Risk factors in pregnancy for post-traumatic stress and depression after childbirth


Dr J Söderquist, Department of Welfare and Social Studies (ISV), Linköping University, Campus Norrköping, S-601 74 Norrköping, Sweden. Email johso@isv.liu.se


Objective  The objective of this study was to find risk factors in pregnancy for post-traumatic stress and depression 1 month after childbirth. Furthermore, the relation between post-traumatic stress and depression was explored.

Design  A prospective longitudinal study.

Setting  Pregnant women in Linköping and Kalmar, Sweden.

Population  A total of 1224 women were assessed in pregnancy, week 12–20 and 32, as well as 1 month postpartum.

Methods  Post-traumatic stress and depression after delivery were assessed 1 month postpartum. Potential risk factors were assessed in early and late pregnancy. Variables measured during pregnancy were trait anxiety, depression, fear of childbirth, childbirth-related traumatic stress, stress coping capacity, social support, parity, educational level, age, gestation week, parity, educational level, civil status, previous psychological/psychiatric counselling, and previous experience of any traumatic events. Delivery mode was assessed from the medical records.

Main outcome measures  Prevalence of post-traumatic stress (criteria A, B, C, D, E, and F according to DSM-IV) and depression (Beck’s depression inventory).

Results  One month postpartum, 12 (1.3%) women had post-traumatic stress (met symptom criteria B, C, and D for post-traumatic stress disorder according to Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th edition [DSM-IV]). The most important risk factors in pregnancy were depression in early pregnancy (OR = 16.3), severe fear of childbirth (OR = 6.2), and ‘pre’-traumatic stress (in view of the forthcoming delivery) in late pregnancy (OR = 12.5). The prevalence of depression was 5.6%. Post-traumatic stress and depression were positively related 1 month postpartum and were predicted by mainly the same factors.

Conclusions  Risk factors for post-traumatic stress and depression after childbirth can be assessed in early pregnancy. Post-traumatic stress and depression also seem to share the same underlying vulnerability factors.