The influence of postpartum PTSD on breastfeeding: A longitudinal population-based study

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



BACKGROUND: In most Western countries, breastfeeding rates are lower than what is recommended by the World Health Organization. Depression has been shown to influence breastfeeding outcomes; however, there is very little research on the role of postpartum posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study examined to what extent maternal postpartum PTSD predicted breastfeeding initiation, exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months, and continuation up to 1 and 2 years.

METHODS: The study is part of the large, population-based Akershus Birth Cohort. Data from the hospital's birth record and questionnaire data from 8 weeks and 2 years postpartum were used (n = 1480). All breastfeeding variables significantly correlated with postpartum PTSD were entered into stepwise logistic regression analyses.

RESULTS: Although most mothers (97.1%) initiated breastfeeding, considerably fewer adhered to the World Health Organization's breastfeeding guidelines about exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months (13.4%) or continued breastfeeding for 12 or 24 months postpartum (37.7% and 4.2%, respectively). Even after adjustment for important confounding variables, maternal postpartum PTSD was significantly associated with not initiating breastfeeding (aOR 5.98 [95% CI 1.79-19.97]). Postpartum PTSD was also significantly related to not continuing breastfeeding up to 12 months, although this association did not hold after adjusting for confounding variables.

CONCLUSION: Identifying women at risk of not initiating breastfeeding is crucial to prevent a negative influence on infant development and the development of the mother-infant bond. Early screening and treatment of women at risk of developing postpartum PTSD might be a way forward.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-201
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

External IDs

PubMed 29265443
Scopus 85038261025
ORCID /0000-0002-7472-674X/work/142257699



  • Adult, Breast Feeding/statistics & numerical data, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Logistic Models, Male, Multivariate Analysis, Norway/epidemiology, Postpartum Period/psychology, Pregnancy, Prospective Studies, Risk Factors, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology, Surveys and Questionnaires