Peritraumatic Distress Mediates the Effect of Severity of Disaster Exposure on Perinatal Depression: The Iowa Flood Study

J Trauma Stress. 2015 Dec;28(6):515-22. doi: 10.1002/jts.22056. Epub 2015 Nov 19.


Disaster exposure during pregnancy has received limited attention. This study examined the impact of the 2008 Iowa Floods on perinatal maternal depression and well-being, and the role of peritraumatic distress as a possible mechanism explaining this link. Perinatal women (N = 171) completed measures of depressive symptoms and general well-being at 5 timepoints from pregnancy to 30 months postpartum. Objectively assessed prenatal flood exposure was associated with greater depression (r = .15). Further, flood-related peritraumatic distress was uniquely associated with greater depression (r = .23), and was a key mechanism through which flood exposure led to depression. Prenatal flood exposure was also associated with general well-being (r = .18); however, a mechanism other than peritraumatic distress appears to have been responsible for the effect of flood exposure on well-being. We discuss the implications of these findings for informing etiological models and enhancing the efficacy of interventions for maternal psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Floods*
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Perinatology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic / psychology*