Samantha Copithorne is a third-year Master’s of Counselling candidate at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada. I am looking at specializing in perinatal mental health in my future practice once I register as a psychologist in Alberta next year. I recently completed the basic and advanced perinatal mental health psychotherapy training offered through Postpartum Support International (PSI). I am also an active member of the Maternal Mental Health Progress in Canada, which is a group devoted to research and advocacy for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD) in Canada. I am eager to continue my research and advocacy into PMADs both in the remainder of my education, and once I graduate.
Literature is beginning to emerge in the area of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD). However there is still an abundant amount of research to conduct to further enrich understanding of the various PMADs, and how they might affect women and their families. This literature review was designed to enhance further understanding of postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (P-PTSD), which is just one of the several known PMADs. The literature suggests that up to 44% of high-risk women perceive their childbirth experience to be traumatic (De Graaff, Honig, Van Panpus, & Stramrood, 2017). Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder can be particularly difficult to recognize, as a traumatic birth experience is subjective to each birthing woman. The past experiences of each birthing woman might also impact their likelihood or resiliency of P-PTSD manifestation. Some women experience flashbacks from previously experienced trauma, which can impact their perception of a traumatic birthing experience, whereas other women’s past experiences might not influence the development of P-PTSD symptomology. Postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder not only impacts the birthing woman but also her family and social supports. There is such a wide breadth of individuals that could potentially be affected by P-PTSD, which illustrates the importance of furthering research and employing an effective screening tool to ensure that women and their social circles are completely supported. One screening tool that might have advantageous impacts on detecting early P-PTSD symptoms in postpartum women is the City Birth Trauma Scale (Ayers, Wright, & Thornton, 2018). Effective screening tools might encourage a more proficient treatment strategy as the women may not need to endure P-PTSD symptoms for as long as they would have without the use of a screening tool.
Understanding Postpartum Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Literature Review