Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome, also known as PTSD, is an unfortunate consequence of many women's birth experiences. While there are known risk factors, there is not currently a standardized screening method for identifying symptoms of PTSD in the postpartum period. One recent meta-analysis of 78 research studies identified a prevalence of postpartum PTSD as 3.1% in community samples and as 15.7% in at-risk or targeted samples. Risk factors for PTSD included current depression, labor experiences (including interactions with medical staff), and a history of psychopathology. In the targeted samples, risk factors included current depression and infant complications. Other authors have explored the relationships between preterm birth and PTSD, preeclampsia or premature rupture of membranes, and infants in the neonatal intensive care unit.
One of the main concerns of failing to identify and treat for PTSD in the postpartum period is the potential negative effect on the family. High levels of anxiety, stress, and depression may impact not only the mother's health, but also may affect her ability to meet her new infant's needs, or complete usual functions in work and home life. One study suggested that "…maternal stress and depression are related to infants’ ability to self-sooth during a stressful situation." Clearly, healthy moms promote healthy families, and each mother deserves the attention that her new infant often receives from the world!