Clinician-reported childbirth outcomes, patient-reported childbirth trauma, and risk for postpartum depression

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2022 Oct;25(5):985-993. doi: 10.1007/s00737-022-01263-3. Epub 2022 Aug 28.


Childbirth trauma is common and increases risk for postpartum depression (PPD). However, we lack brief measures to reliably identify individuals who experience childbirth trauma and who may be at greater prospective risk for PPD. To address this gap, we used data from a racially diverse prospective cohort (n=1082). We collected survey data during pregnancy and at 12 weeks postpartum, as well as clinician-reported data from medical records. A new three-item measure of patient-reported childbirth trauma was a robust and independent risk factor for PPD, above and beyond other known risk factors for PPD, including prenatal anxiety and depression. Cesarean birth, greater blood loss, and preterm birth were each associated with greater patient-reported childbirth trauma. Finally, there were prospective indirect pathways whereby cesarean birth and higher blood loss were related to higher patient-reported childbirth trauma, in turn predicting greater risk for PPD. Early universal postpartum screening for childbirth trauma, targeted attention to individuals with childbirth complications, and continued screening for depression and anxiety can identify individuals at risk for PPD. Such efforts can inform targeted interventions to improve maternal mental health, which plays a vital role in infant development.

Keywords: Birth trauma; Childbirth; Depression; Postpartum; Prevention.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Parturition / psychology
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Postpartum Period / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors