Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Increases Risk of Preterm Birth

First Posted: Jun 12, 2014 03:08 PM EDT

Mental health issues can increase the risk of certain medical health problems. A recent study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, shows that posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression may significantly increase the risk of preterm birth.

For the study, researchers examined 2,654 pregnant women who were recruited before 17 weeks gestation. They looked for symptoms of PTSD, major episodes of depression and the use of various medications, or more specifically, benzodiazepine--a psychoactive medication that can treat a variety of health issues. Preterm birth was defined as before 37 weeks gestation, according to a news release.

Results revealed that 4.9 percent of the participants showed that symptoms consisted with PTSD. Futhermore, this risk increased by 1 to 12 percent with each one-point increase of PTSD symptoms.

Those with both PTSD and major depressive episodes were at the highest risk for delivering preterm. In fact, findings showed that this risk quadrupled. Certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors and benzodiazepine medications were also more likely to cause delivery preterm.

"The risk appears independent of antidepressant or benzodiazepine use and is not simply a function of mood or anxiety symptoms. Further exploration of the biological and genetic factors will help risk-stratify patients and illuminate the pathways leading to this risk."

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