Peritraumatic dissociation and emotions as predictors of PTSD symptoms following childbirth

J Trauma Dissociation. 2005;6(3):125-42. doi: 10.1300/J229v06n03_06.


The current study investigated the contributive role of perinatal dissociative and perinatal emotional responses to the development of PTSD symptoms following childbirth.

Method: Using a prospective, longitudinal design, 140 women were studied who were followed from the first week after delivery to three months postpartum.

Results: Three women (2.1%) met criteria for PTSD and 21.4% reported a traumatic childbirth experience. Both perinatal negative emotional reactions and perinatal dissociative reactions were the predictors of PTSD symptoms at three months postpartum. The effect of perinatal dissociation, however, was partially mediated by perinatal emotional reactions.

Conclusion: Posttraumatic stress disorder can be a consequence of the experience of childbirth. Women who reported high levels of negative emotions during and shortly after childbirth were more likely to develop PTSD symptoms than women who did not. Women who experienced an instrumental delivery and also reported higher levels of psychoform perinatal dissociation, were at higher risk than women who reported higher levels of perinatal dissociation during a spontaneous delivery. These findings add to the growing body of literature regarding traumatic childbirth and indicate that perinatal dissociative and emotional phenomena are associated with posttraumatic stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*