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London - One in three women who have just given birth may experience signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition usually associated with war and terrorist attacks.

Research suggests tens of thousands may be affected.

Symptoms include flashbacks to the labour, avoiding any discussion of the event or having physical reactions such as heart palpitations when it is mentioned, and reluctance to consider having another child.

Scientists in Israel who conducted the research said classifying childbirth as a cause of PTSD is controversial, but they believe it is “indisputable”, as it can trigger “intense fear, helplessness or horror”.

PTSD is defined as the result of “experiencing, witnessing or confronting an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others”.

The scientists interviewed 89 women after delivery, of whom 80 percent had given birth without any pain relief. Of those surveyed, 3.4 percent of the women experienced full-blown PTSD, 7.8 percent had “nearly complete” cases and 25.9 percent displayed “significant” symptoms for at least a month, the study found.

The main cause was pain, but also fear of serious or fatal complications for themselves or the child. It was often associated with a traumatic previous delivery.

Professor Rael Strous of Tel Aviv University said the discomfort of being undressed for a long period during labour had a surprisingly strong effect, mentioned by four out of five women affected. The authors added in the Israel Medical Association Journal: “These high percentages indicate a population at risk and the importance of early detection, diagnosis and management if necessary. Dignity is a factor that should be taken into account.”

Lucy Jolin of the Birth Trauma Association said they believe around 10,000 women in the UK alone develop full-blown PTSD following childbirth and a further 200,000 may develop some of the symptoms.

She said: “PTSD can stay with you all your life and have huge repercussions.” - Daily Mail