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J Anxiety Disord. 2004;18(2):127-42.

Traumatic stress in late pregnancy.

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Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Linköping University, S-58183 Linköping, Sweden.


Traumatic stress has traditionally been studied in the aftermath of traumatic events. In contrast, this study aimed to explore if traumatic stress can occur before an event that is perceived as threatening or feared. Traumatic stress, as related to the forthcoming delivery, was studied in 1224 women. Background data and psychological characteristics were assessed in early pregnancy and traumatic stress and fear of childbirth in late pregnancy. Of all subjects, 2.3% met all DSM-IV criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and 5.8% fulfilled criteria B, C, and D in late pregnancy. Traumatic stress and fear of childbirth correlated significantly. High trait anxiety, depressive symptomatology, psychological/psychiatric counseling related to childbirth, and self-reported psychological problems, measured in early pregnancy, were risk factors for traumatic stress and fear of childbirth in late pregnancy. Results suggest the occurrence of "pre"traumatic stress (i.e., a threatening forthcoming event provoking symptoms similar to those after a traumatic event).

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