Postpartum depression is familiar term when discussing postpartum mental health, but did you know another common result of childbirth can be postpartum PTSD? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is characterized as a “Stress-Related Disorder,” which results when one struggles to recover from a traumatic experience or event.
In general, PTSD affects approximately 10% of women during their lifetime. Recently, there’s been increased awareness surrounding PTSD as a result of childbirth. Although a previous history of trauma, such as sexual abuse, can qualify for postpartum PTSD, research now shows a traumatic birthing experience, an unplanned C-section, and premature delivery can also lead symptoms of PTSD.
Postpartum PTSD is not a specific diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it is a subset of the PTSD diagnosis. In order to meet the criteria for the diagnosis there needs to be the presence of 4 symptom categories. The first is persistent re-experiencing of the trauma (i.e. thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks). The second is avoidance of any stimuli associated with the trauma (i.e. thoughts, feelings, places and people related to the event). The third is a feeling of detachment or numbness. This may be accompanied by a depressed mind state, exaggerated negative world views and/or an inability to experience positive emotions. The final category is an increased arousal or reactivity associated with the traumatic event. Increased arousal can often mean feelings of hypervigilance, “being on-edge,” or an exaggerated startle response. Some women may also present with sleep disruptions unrelated to their newborns sleep schedule, increased irritability and even self-destructive behavior.
Patients who experience these symptoms may feel an increased burden, which can often lead to difficulties with bonding or breastfeeding. Long-term, patients may endure relationship challenges or may even avoid having more children. These experiences may feel overwhelming, but it’s important to recognize you are not alone in this. Here at Advanced Women’s Healthcare, we specialize in counseling focused on helping new mothers cope with postpartum distress. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with our Licensed Counselor.