Childhood sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress disorder among pregnant and postpartum women: review of the literature

Adaeze C Wosu, Bizu Gelaye, Michelle A Williams
Archives of Women's Mental Health 2015, 18 (1): 61-72
The aims of this review are (i) to summarize and evaluate current knowledge on the association between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in pregnant and postpartum women, (ii) to provide suggestions for future research on this topic, and (iii) to highlight some clinical implications. Relevant publications were identified through literature searches of four databases (PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PsycINFO, and PsycARTICLES) using keywords such as "child abuse," "posttraumatic stress," "pregnancy," and "postpartum". Five studies were included in this review. Findings across all studies were consistent with higher prevalence of PTSD diagnosis or symptomatology among women with history of CSA. However, only findings from two studies were statistically significant. One study observed higher overall PTSD scores in women with CSA history compared to women with non-CSA trauma history or no trauma history during pregnancy (mean ± SD 1.47 (0.51) vs. 1.33 (0.41) vs. 1.22 (0.29), p < 0.001), at 2 months postpartum (mean ± SD 1.43 (0.49) vs. 1.26 (0.38) vs. 1.19 (0.35), p < 0.001), and at 6 months postpartum (mean ± SD 1.36 (1.43) vs. 1.20 (0.33) vs. 1.14 (0.27), p < 0.001). Another study observed that the prevalence of PTSD during pregnancy was 4.1 % in women with no history of physical or sexual abuse, 11.4 % in women with adult physical or sexual abuse history, 16.0 % in women with childhood physical or sexual abuse history, and 39.0 % in women exposed to both childhood and adult physical or sexual abuse (p < 0.001); in a subsequent analysis, the investigators reported that pregnant women with PTSD had over 5-fold odds of having a history of childhood completed rape compared to counterparts without PTSD (OR = 5.3, 95 % CI 3.2, 8.7). Overall, available evidence suggests positive associations of CSA with clinical PTSD or PTSD symptomatology among pregnant and postpartum women.

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