Seeing Their Children in Pain: Symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Mothers of Children with an Anomaly Requiring Surgery at Birth

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Abstract

Objective

Assess the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in mothers of newborns requiring early surgery.

Study Design

Mothers of newborns operated on for a congenital anomaly underwent a semi-structured interview on their experience 6 months postpartum. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed for symptoms of the three major criteria of PTSD: re-experiencing, avoidance, and heightened arousal.

Results

A total of 120 mothers took part in the study; their children were affected by one of the following congenital anomaly: esophageal atresia (n = 29); congenital diaphragmatic hernia (n = 38); midgut malformations (n = 38); and abdominal wall defects (n = 15). Two mothers did not show any symptoms; 12 mothers (10%) had one posttraumatic symptom, 77 (64.2%) had two, and 29 (24.2%) had three. Overall, 106 mothers (88.4%) presented at least two symptoms.

Conclusion

PTSD can be considered a useful model to describe and comprehend mothers' reactions in this specific population. Preventive interventions and dedicated follow-up program should be offered to these families.

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