HealthDay News — Pregnant women with likely diagnoses of both post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a major depressive episode are at increased risk of preterm birth, according to researchers.

“Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in about 8% of pregnant women. Stressful conditions, including PTSD, are inconsistently linked to preterm birth,” wrote Kimberly Ann Yonkers, MD, of the Yale School of Medicine, and colleagues.

Researchers assessed the associations of PTSD, major depressive disorder, and antidepressant or anxiolytic treatment, with preterm birth. Their findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.

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Recursive partitioning analysis showed high rates of preterm birth among female patients diagnosed with PTSD, including female patients with PTSD who met the criteria for a major depressive episode.

Logistic regression analysis confirmed an increased risk of preterm birth among pregnant women who had likely diagnoses of both PTSD and major depressive disorder (odds ratio, 4.08; 95% CI: 1.27-13.15). The risk of preterm birth was increased among pregnant patients who used a a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (OR, 1.55; 95% CI: 1.02-2.36) or a benzodiazepine medication (OR, 1.99; 95% CI: 0.98-4.03).

“Women with likely diagnoses of both PTSD and a major depressive episode are at a four-fold increased risk of preterm birth; this risk is greater than, and independent of, antidepressant and benzodiazepine use and is not simply a function of mood or anxiety symptoms,” wrote the authors.


  1. Yonkers K et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014; doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.558

Disclosures: One author disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.