Disasters and perinatal health

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Severity of exposure is the major predictor of mental health issues among pregnant and postpartum women. The mother’s mental health after a disaster could influence child development more strongly than any direct effect of disaster-related prenatal stress. Relief workers and clinicians should focus on the women most exposed to disasters, particularly with respect to mental health.

This review aimed to examine the evidence on the effect of disasters on perinatal health. The final review included 49 peer-reviewed studies and events which ranged from environmental/chemical disasters, terrorist attacks like September 11th, and natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. There is evidence that disaster impacts maternal mental health and some perinatal outcomes, particularly among highly-exposed mothers. There does not appear to be an effect on gestational age at birth. Future research should focus on under-studies outcomes such as spontaneous abortion.

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