Perinatal Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Review of Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Nicole H. Cirino, Jacqueline M. Knapp

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Importance Perinatal posttraumatic stress disorder (P-PTSD) occurs in approximately 3% to 15% of women in the postpartum period. It is often underrecognized, poorly characterized, and undertreated. If untreated, it can lead to maternal and infant morbidity. Objective The aim of this review article is to discuss P-PTSD as it relates to the obstetrician gynecologist, focusing specifically on identifying perinatal risk factors, P-PTSD diagnostic tools, and treatment options. Evidence Acquisition PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, and Scopus were searched on MeSH terms and free text for terms related specifically to P-PTSD. Because of the lack of data on treatment specifically for the perinatal population, a second search for general PTSD treatment guidelines was conducted and incorporated into this review. Results Risk factors have been identified in the literature in 4 major categories: obstetric, psychiatric, social, and subjective distress during delivery. Two diagnostic tests, the general PTSD diagnostic tool, the PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, and the specific diagnostic tool, the Perinatal Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Questionnaire, can both be helpful for the clinician to diagnose patients who may have P-PTSD. Individual trauma-focused psychotherapy is first line for treatment of P-PTSD. Immediate debriefing interventions and non-trauma-focused psychotherapy has not been shown to be helpful. If trauma-focused psychotherapy is not available or not preferred, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and non-trauma-focused psychotherapy can be used. Conclusions and Relevance Identifying and treating P-PTSD have important implications for maternal and neonatal health. Few treatment studies exist for P-PTSD specifically, so combining P-PTSD research with current guidelines for PTSD is necessary to inform clinical practice. Target Audience Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians. Learning Objectives After participating in this CME activity, the participant should be better able to identify several risk factors for the development of PTSD in the perinatal period; describe 2 diagnostic tools to help diagnose and monitor P-PTSD; and compare effective and ineffective treatment options for perinatal PTSD, recognizing the importance of timing of interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-376
Number of pages8
JournalObstetrical and Gynecological Survey
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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