Development of Maternal PTSD After a Child's Critical Illness

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Cara Gallegos


Background: A child’s critical illness can be stressful for their families. An extended hospitalization has been found to lead to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children and their mothers.

Purpose: The purpose of this evidence review was to describe the effect the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) has on a child’s mental health and to determine if maternal stress exacerbates in children who are hospitalized in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Methodology: The databases CINAHL and Medline were searched (2004 to present) using the following keywords: Post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, PICU, discharge, mother and child, maternal stress, mental health and child stress. The titles and/or abstracts from 10 journal articles were reviewed.

Results: The level of evidence included II, IV, V, VI and VII. Nearly half of mothers experienced significant symptoms of PTSD twelve months after discharge. Children who took part in therapies had fewer withdrawal symptoms, six months after discharge, as well as fewer negative behavioral symptoms and externalizing behaviors at twelve months. Stress was also reduced in children when mothers took part in a support group, participated more in their child’s care, received unrestricted access to their child, honest and straightforward information, and a clear idea of the diagnosis and/or prognosis.

Significance: Treatment should not end after discharge. Mothers who acquire PTSD after or during PICU admission risks exacerbating their child’s PTSD and plays a role in determining the presence and intensity of PTSD and quality of life in children. The mothers who participated in therapy reported a less negative mood state, less depression, and fewer PTSD symptoms at follow up assessments after hospitalization

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