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PTSD, Depression Boosts Preterm Risk

Update Date: Jun 11, 2014 07:27 PM EDT

Posttraumatic stress disorder and major depression significantly increases the risk of preterm birth, according to a new study.

The latest findings also show that this increased risk seems to be independent of antidepressant and benzodiazepine medication use.

Researchers said the latest findings are important because preterm birth causes many infant deaths.

The latest study involved 2,654 pregnant women who were recruited before 17 weeks gestation. Researchers examined signs of PTSD, major depressive episode and use of antidepressant and benzodiazepine drugs. The study defined preterm birth as being born before 37 weeks of gestation.

Study data revealed that 4.9 percent of participants had symptoms consistent with PTSD. Furthermore, the risk of preterm birth increased by 1to 2 percent with each one-point increase of PTSD symptoms.

Women with PTSD and major depressive episode had the highest risk of delivering preterm. The findings revealed that these women had quadruple the risk of preterm birth. The study also found that women taking serotonin reuptake inhibitor and benzodiazepine medications were also more likely to deliver preterm.

"The risk appears independent of antidepressant or benzodiazepine use and is not simply a function of mood or anxiety symptoms. Further exploration of the biological and genetic factors will help risk-stratify patients and illuminate the pathways leading to this risk," researchers wrote.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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