Childhood sexual abuse as a predictor of birth-related posttraumatic stress and postpartum posttraumatic stress

Rachel Lev-Wiesel, Shir Daphna-Tekoah, Mordechai Hallak
Child Abuse & Neglect 2009, 33 (12): 877-87

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the extent to which childbirth may function as a retraumatization of childhood sexual abuse, and may exacerbate postpartum posttraumatic stress reactions.

METHODS: Data was obtained from a convenience sample of 837 women in mid-pregnancy, at 2 and 6 months following childbirth. Three groups were drawn from this sample: women who experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA), women survivors of trauma other than CSA, and women who reported no-trauma experiences.

RESULTS: PTSD subcategories of intrusion and arousal were increased in the CSA group following childbirth, although the overall PTSD score did not increase following childbirth in any of the groups CSA survivors scored higher at all data collection time points.

CONCLUSIONS: CSA is a traumatic event that has greater negative long-term effects than other traumas in the population of pregnant women.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Identifying women who are survivors of CSA early in their pregnancy and establishing a risk assessment may significantly reduce delivery complications and consequently mitigate postpartum PTS outcomes.

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