Early psychological interventions for prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-traumatic stress symptoms in post-partum women: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Paula Taylor Miller, Marlene Sinclair, Patricia Gillen, Paul Miller, Derek Farrell, Julie Mc Cullough, Paul F Slater, Elan Shapiro, Phyllis Klaus

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Pre-term or full-term childbirth can be experienced as physically or psychologically traumatic. Cumulative and trans-generational effects of traumatic stress on both psychological and physical health indicate the ethical requirement to investigate appropriate preventative treatment for stress symptoms in women following a routine traumatic experience such as childbirth. Objective The objective of this review was to investigate the effectiveness of early psychological interventions in reducing or preventing post-traumatic stress symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder in post-partum women within twelve weeks of a traumatic birth. Methods Randomised controlled trials and pilot studies of psychological interventions preventing or reducing post-traumatic stress symptoms or PTSD, that included women who had experienced a traumatic birth, were identified in a search of Cochrane Central Register of Randomised Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, Embase, Psychinfo, PILOTS, CINAHL and Proquest Dissertations databases. One author performed database searches, verified results with a subject librarian, extracted study details and data. Five authors appraised extracted data and agreed upon risk of bias. Analysis was completed with Rev Man 5 software and quality of findings were rated according to Grading of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation. Results Eleven studies were identified that evaluated the effectiveness of a range of early psychological interventions. There was firm evidence to suggest that midwifery or clinician led early psychological interventions administered within 72 hours following traumatic childbirth are more effective than usual care in reducing traumatic stress symptoms in women at 4-6 weeks. Further studies of high methodological quality that include longer follow up of 6-12 months are required in order to substantiate the evidence of the effectiveness of specific face to face and online early psychological intervention modalities in preventing the effects of stress symptoms and PTSD in women following a traumatic birth before introduction to routine care and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0258170
Pages (from-to)1-25
Number of pages25
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
Early online date24 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 24 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Taylor Miller et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Research Article
  • Medicine and health sciences
  • Biology and life sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Research and analysis methods
  • Physical sciences
  • Trauma
  • early psychological intervention
  • post traumatic stress disorder
  • PTSD
  • depression
  • birth
  • women
  • perinatal mental health
  • Parturition
  • Humans
  • Psychosocial Intervention
  • Risk
  • Postpartum Period/psychology
  • Publication Bias
  • Female
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/diagnosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Depression, Postpartum/psychology


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