Depressive symptoms and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in women after childbirth

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2008 Mar;29(1):61-71. doi: 10.1080/01674820701804324.


This study examined the course of psychological problems in women from late pregnancy to six months postpartum, the rates of psychiatric, especially depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms and possible related antecedent variables. During late pregnancy, one to three days postpartum, six weeks and six months postpartum, 47 of the 60 participating women completed a battery of questionnaires including the General Health Questionnaire, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and the PTSD Symptom Scale. In general, most women recovered from psychiatric and somatic problems over the period of investigation. However, depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms in particular were not found to decline significantly. Six weeks postpartum, 22% of the women had depressive symptoms, with this figure remaining at 21.3% six months postpartum. In addition, 6% of the women studied reported clinically significant PTSD symptoms at six weeks postpartum with 14.9% reporting such symptoms at six months postpartum. The most important predictor for depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms was the block variable "anxiety in late pregnancy". Other predictors were the variables "psychiatric symptoms in late pregnancy", "critical life events" and the "experience of delivery". The results of our study show a high prevalence rate of psychiatric symptoms in women after childbirth and suggest, besides the experience of the delivery itself, a vulnerability or predisposing history that makes the development of psychiatric symptoms after childbirth more probable.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Causality
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parturition / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology