Childbirth Connection recently released a new report, New Mothers Speak Out, for which they followed up with 903 women six months after participation in the Listening to Mothers II survey and asked them questions about their postpartum experiences. Participants were asked a number of questions about social support, employment, postpartum physical and mental health, among other topics.
Not too surprisingly, many of the women reported struggling with physical exhaustion, sleep loss, and stress in the two months after delivery. The survey also included a short 7-question version of the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale. In responding to these questions, 27% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they felt a lost of sense of self, 20% felt guilty about their mothering behavior, and 5% reported suicidal thoughts. 6% of women also reported that in the previous two weeks, they felt little interest or pleasure in doing things and/or felt down, depressed or hopeless “nearly every day.”
Perhaps of most interest, however, is the attempt to estimate “traumatic birth” through a 17-question section of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Scale. The questions for this section of the survey addressed issues such as how often women had nightmares about childbirth, attempted to avoid situations or places that reminded them of birth, had emotional or physical reactions when reminded of childbirth, and other responses. The authors concluded that “In all, 18% of the mothers appeared to be experiencing some PTSD symptoms, and 9% of the mothers appeared to meet all formal criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
This aspect of the survey was covered last week by the Wall Street Journal, which noted that “The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that postpartum depression affects 15% of mothers” and that “earlier studies outside the U.S. had estimated the prevalence of childbirth-related PTSD at between 1.5% and 5.9%.”