Childbirth-related posttraumatic stress symptoms - examining associations with hair endocannabinoid concentrations during pregnancy and lifetime trauma

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Evidence has linked alterations of the endocannabinoid system with trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Childbirth-related PTSD symptoms (CB-PTSS) affect about every eighth woman and can negatively influence the entire family. While aetiological models of CB-PTSD include psychological risk factors such as maternal trauma history and negative subjective birth experience (SBE), they lack biological risk indicators. We investigated whether lifetime trauma and CB-PTSS were associated with long-term endocannabinoid concentrations during pregnancy. Further, we tested endocannabinoids as mediators between lifetime trauma and CB-PTSS and whether SBE moderated such mediational paths. Within the prospective cohort study DREAMHAIR, 263 expectant mothers completed trauma assessments and provided hair samples for quantification of long-term endocannabinoid levels (anandamide [AEA], 2-arachidonoylglycerol [1-AG/2-AG], and N-acyl-ethanolamides [NAE]) prior to their anticipated birth date. Two months postpartum, CB-PTSS and SBE were measured. Regression models controlling for relevant confounders showed no association between lifetime trauma and hair endocannabinoids during pregnancy, yet higher number of lifetime trauma events and lower hair AEA were significantly associated with CB-PTSS, with the latter finding not remaining significant when Bonferroni corrections due to multiple testing were applied. While hair AEA did not mediate the association between lifetime trauma and CB-PTSS, the effect of lower hair AEA on CB-PTSS was stronger upon negative SBE. Results suggest greater lifetime trauma and reduced maternal hair AEA during pregnancy may be associated with increased risk for CB-PTSS, particularly upon negative SBE. Findings confirm lifetime trauma as a CB-PTSS risk factor and add important preliminary insights on the role of endocannabinoid ligand alterations and SBE in CB-PTSS pathology.


Original languageEnglish
Article number335
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2023

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC10618290
Scopus 85175594925
ORCID /0000-0001-6790-8679/work/147140533
ORCID /0000-0002-1938-3414/work/147142973
ORCID /0000-0002-1171-7133/work/147143454
ORCID /0000-0002-7472-674X/work/147143692



  • Pregnancy, Female, Humans, Endocannabinoids, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology, Prospective Studies, Postpartum Period