Posttraumatic stress reactions after emergency cesarean section


Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Central Hospital, S − 251 87, Helsingborg, Sweden


Background. The study aimed at answering the following questions: Do women experience emergency cesarean section as traumatic?

Do women experience any posttraumatic stress reactions or even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) one to two months after emergency cesarean section?

Methods. Twenty-five consecutive women were interviewed a few days and one to two months after emergency cesarean section.

Results. Nineteen (76%) of the 25 women had experienced their delivery by emergency cesarean section as a traumatic event. One to two months postpartum none of these women met all the diagnostic criteria of PTSD. However, 13 women had various forms of posttraumatic stress reactions and in eight cases (33%) symptoms of serious posttraumatic intrusive stress reactions.

Conclusions. The emergency cesarean section was in the majority of the cases experienced as a mental trauma. Although none of the women suffered from PTSD one to two months postpartum, one third had serious posttraumatic intrusive stress reactions. The concept of traumatic stress thus seems to be relevant for investigations of psychological aspects of emergency cesarean section.