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Zentralbl Gynakol. 2001 Jan;123(1):42-7.

[Psychologic effects of traumatic live deliveries].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Universitätsfrauenklinik Bonn.



Traumatically experienced childbirth can lead to serious psychological disturbances postpartum. Dependent upon objective and subjective factors, some women may even develop the symptomatology of a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The aim of a pilot study was the evaluation of the frequency of traumatically experienced childbirth, of the effects of these traumatic experiences and possible risk factors for the development of PTSD.


976 women, who had given birth at the Bonn University Women's Hospital during 1997/1998, were retrospectively questioned regarding their experiences with pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. 46 women, who described relevant psychological symptoms after childbirth, were personally interviewed.


424 women returned the completed questionnaire. 17.2% of the women reported anxiety postpartum, 9.4% depressive symptoms, 12% a mental re-experience of delivery within the first weeks postpartum, 3.8% were still suffering from these intrusions at the time of the study. In the first weeks after labor, nightmares were reported in 3.1%. In 4 cases, the full criteria for a PTSD were met. In 10 further cases, a subsyndromal form of this disorder was found. The case analysis showed that the development of PTSD symptoms was influenced by factors such as expectations, need for control, sense of shame and previous traumatic experiences.


Psychological symptoms postpartum were reported frequently. Traumatically experienced childbirth can be responsible for specific short-term or long-term symptoms. In individual cases, a PTSD can develop after a traumatic delivery with long-term negative consequences for the health and mental condition of the mother, the mother-child-relationship and the desire for further pregnancy. In such cases, a specific psychotherapeutic treatment is always necessary.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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