Progress of PTSD symptoms following birth: a prospective study in mothers of high-risk infants

J Perinatol. 2015 Aug;35(8):575-9. doi: 10.1038/jp.2015.9. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


Objective: To understand how postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in mothers of high-risk infants progress and identify what factors predict postpartum PTSD.

Study design: We prospectively obtained self-reported psychological data from neonatal intensive care unit discharged infants' mothers (NICU mothers) at the infants' corrected ages of 1 (T0), 3 (T1) and 12 months (T2) and mothers of healthy infants (controls). Maternal sociodemographic and infant-related factors were also investigated.

Result: PTSD was present in 25 and 9% of NICU mothers and controls, respectively. We identified four PTSD patterns: none, persistent, delayed and recovered. The postpartum PTSD course was associated with trait anxiety. Whether the infant was the first child who predicted PTSD at year 1 (adjusted odds ratio=7.62, 95% confidence interval=1.07 to 54.52).

Conclusion: Mothers of high-risk infants can develop early or late PTSD, and its course can be influenced by factors besides medical status. We therefore recommend regular screenings of postpartum PTSD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care, Neonatal
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Self Report
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*