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PTSD after pregnancy

You may associate post-traumatic stress disorder with survivors of assault, war, or natural disasters. But as maternal-fetal specialist Dr. Shivani Patel will tell you, symptoms of PTSD can weigh heavy on moms who had complex pregnancies. She knows from personal experience.


I think the association is that pregnancy is a happy time. Women tend to be young, they're healthy. We expect good outcomes, and so when things don't go as expected, we don't ever think about that as a traumatic event, and there's more data now and more attention being paid to this idea of post-pregnancy PTSD. There's some triggering event with PTSD that's not necessarily there with depression, that there is something that causes you to flashback to what previously happened and that triggers symptoms of anxiety or avoidance. I know from personal experience that talking to your healthcare providers about this issue is just as important as any other medical concern you may have. My first pregnancy, I was moving along just fine and then around 31 weeks, I just started not feeling very good and I had blood pressures that were exorbitantly high for pregnancy. I met the diagnostic criteria for preeclampsia with severe features and I got delivered that night via C-section at 31 weeks and 6 days She stayed in the NICU for about 5-and-half weeks and came home and now she's a healthy 8-year-old doing fantastic. Then I got pregnant the second time and I remember that first prenatal care visit I went to the second time and my heart started racing and the nurse took my blood pressure and it was high and she looked at me and she said are you okay? and I said yeah I'm just nervous because of what happened last time. So, I started showing up to doctors' appointments 20 minutes early just to give myself time, kind of talk myself off the ledge. Luckily my trigger is so specific that it doesn't alter my daily life and I can continue to function as a physician, as a mom, as a friend but I recognize that there are women who's triggers are vastly different and who may not even be able to get through sometimes normal everyday life without having flashbacks to the events surrounding their pregnancies. Patients should not be afraid to talk to their healthcare providers about this. It is an important issue. It is just as important as your diabetes and your high blood pressure and we as providers need to recognize that.