Trauma Informed Care in the Obstetric Setting and Role of Perinatal Psychiatrist: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature

Jyoti Sachdeva, Sarah Nagle Yang, Priya Gopalan, Linda L.M. Worley, Leena Mittal, Nicole Shirvani, Meredith Spada, Elizabeth Albertini, Neeta Shenai, Tiffany A. Moore Simas, Nancy Byatt

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    7 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    Background: Trauma is highly prevalent, and women are twice as likely as men to develop posttraumatic stress disorder following a traumatic exposure. Consequently, many women entering the perinatal period have trauma histories. In the perinatal period, a trauma history can negatively impact treatment engagement and adversely affect the experience of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting. A trauma-informed care approach can mitigate these effects. Objective: This review aims to summarize literature that can aid psychiatrists in (1) identifying signs and symptoms of trauma in perinatal women, (2) integrating elements of trauma-informed care into perinatal mental health care, and (3) offering interventions that can minimize adverse outcomes for perinatal women and their children. Methods: A PubMed search was conducted with keywords including trauma, pregnancy, perinatal, posttraumatic stress disorder, postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder, and trauma informed care. Results: Perinatal care, given its somewhat invasive nature, has the potential to traumatize or cause retraumatization. Trauma-related disorders are common and can present or worsen in the perinatal period. Trauma can manifest in multiple forms in this population, including exacerbation of preexisting posttraumatic stress disorder, new onset acute stress disorder in the perinatal period, or postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder secondary to traumatic childbirth. Unaddressed trauma can adversely affect the experience of pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting. Psychiatrists caring for women in the perinatal period are in an ideal position to screen for trauma and offer appropriate intervention. A trauma-informed approach to obstetric care can help clinical teams respond to the unique trauma-related challenges that can arise during obstetric care. Trauma-informed care, with its emphasis on establishing a culture of safety, transparency, trustworthiness, collaboration, and mutuality, can empower health care providers and systems with powerful tools to respond to trauma and its myriad effects in a strengths-based manner. By applying a trauma-informed lens, psychiatrists can help their obstetric colleagues provide patient-centered compassionate care and treatment. Conclusions: Applying a trauma-informed approach to evaluation and treatment of perinatal populations could decrease the toll trauma has on affected women and their children.

    Keywords

    • perinatal
    • postpartum PTSD
    • posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • pregnancy
    • trauma
    • trauma informed care

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