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Review
. 2017 Feb;51:60-74.
doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2016.10.007. Epub 2016 Oct 28.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Parents Following Infant Death: A Systematic Review

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Review

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Parents Following Infant Death: A Systematic Review

Dorte M Christiansen. Clin Psychol Rev. .

Abstract

Parents who have lost an infant prior to, during, or following birth often interpret the event as highly traumatic. The present systematic review included 46 articles based on 31 different studies of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in parents bereaved by infant death. The PTSD prevalence in mothers differed widely across studies with estimated rates at 0.6-39%. PTSD in fathers following infant loss has been less extensively studied but PTSD levels were generally much lower than in mothers with reported prevalence rates at 0-15.6% across studies. PTSD symptoms were not found to differ much depending on whether the death occurred prior to, during, or following birth and nor was gestational age consistently associated with PTSD severity. A number of risk and protective factors have been found to be associated with PTSD severity. Relevant focus areas for future research are presented along with considerations for future pregnancies and children. The suffering associated with PTSD following infant loss is overwhelming because of the rates at which such losses occur around the world. For this reason, it is problematic that not all types of infant loss resulting in sufficient symptoms of re-experiencing, avoidance, and arousal can elicit a DSM-5 PTSD diagnosis.

Keywords: Infant death; Loss; PTSD; Parental bereavement; Systematic review.

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