According to a new study, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) dramatically increases risk of premature birth. From examining 16,000 births involving US military veterans between 2000 and 2012, researchers found that having PTSD in the year before delivery increased the chance of premature birth by 35 percent.
Recently, PTSD was found to be associated with an additional two premature births per 100. However, because of the design of the study, researchers were only able to show that PTSD is associated with premature birth, not a direct cause.
Study senior author Ciaran Phibbs, associate professor of pediatrics and an investigator at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University says, “This study gives us a convincing epidemiological basis to say that, yes, PTSD is a risk factor for preterm delivery.” She also said that pregnant women with PTSD should be treated as though they have high-risk pregnancies.
In order to better prevent premature births, there needs to be a better understanding of what the causes are. This new finding can help develop new prevention strategies. As a result of this study, the Veterans Affairs Administration has instructed all of its medical centers to treat pregnancies of women with PTSD as high-risk.