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Trauma-Focused CBT Reduces PTS, Anxiety & Depression in Moms of Premature Infants

08 Jan

Researchers from Stanford University, the University of New Mexico and New York University conducted a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate 6-month outcomes from a skills-based intervention designed to reduce symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression in mothers of preterm infants.

One hundred five mothers of preterm infants were randomly assigned to (1) a 6- or 9-session intervention based on principles of trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy with infant redefinition or (2) a 1-session active comparison intervention based on education about the NICU and parenting of the premature infant.

Outcome measures included the Davidson Trauma Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory II, and the Beck Anxiety Inventory. Participants were assessed at baseline, 4 to 5 weeks after birth, and 6 months after the birth of the premature infant.

Results at the 6-month assessment revealed significant and sizable differences between the intervention and the comparison condition. These differences became more pronounced when compared with the 4- to 5-week outcomes and at the six month follow up: Davidson Trauma Scale (Cohen's d = -0.74, P < .001), Beck Anxiety Inventory (Cohen's d = -0.627, P = .001), Beck Depression Inventory II (Cohen's d = -0.638, P = .002). However, there were no differences in the effect sizes between the 6- and 9-session interventions.

The investigators concluded that a brief, 6-session intervention, based on principles of trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy, was effective at reducing symptoms of trauma, anxiety, and depression in mothers of preterm infants. Mothers showed increased benefits at the 6-month follow-up, suggesting that they continued to make use of techniques acquired during the intervention phase. There was no added benefit from providing 3 additional sessions beyond the 6-week course.

Citation: Richard J. Shaw, MDa, Nick St John, PhDb, Emily Lilo, MPHc, Booil Jo, PhDa, William Benitz, MDb, David K. Stevenson, MDb, and Sarah M. Horwitz, PhDd  Prevention of traumatic stress in mothers of preterms: 6-month outcomes. Pediatrics. 2014 Aug;134 (2):e481-8. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award.