A recent study followed 29 mothers who gave birth to 35 premature children born before the 33rd week of pregnancy. The women were assessed within 2 weeks postpartum (T0), 2 weeks after hospitalization (T1), 6 months post-term (T2), and 18 months post-term (T3). The Impact of Event Scale (IES), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) and State Anxiety Inventory (STAI-X1) were used to assess maternal mental health outcomes.

Not surprisingly, anxiety levels were at their highest at T0 (2 weeks after delivery) and declined over time but remained elevated across the 18 months observed. The prevalence of posttraumatic stress reactions (PTSR) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was high: 52% at T0 and 29% at T3. The following predicted higher levels of mental health problems: preeclampsia, previous psychological treatment, age, trait anxiety, and intraventricular hemorrhage in the infant.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Misund AR, Nerdrum P, Bråten S, Pripp AH, Diseth TH. Long-term risk of mental health problems in women experiencing preterm birth: a longitudinal study of 29 mothers. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2013 Oct 31; 12(1):33. [Epub ahead of print]

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