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How cognitive science research on imagery can help women traumatised by an emergency cesarean section
Horsch, A., Vial, V., Favrod, C. Harari, M.M., Blackwell, S.E., WATSON, P., Iyadurai, L., Bonsall, M.B., HOLMES, E.A.
Poster given by Antje Horsch on 24th April 2017 at the Royal Society meeting in London (Of mice and mental health: facilitating dialogue between basic and clinical neuroscientists, 24th -25th April 2017).
Year of publication:
Emergency cesarean section (ECS) is indicated in cases of risk to maternal and/or fetal life, therefore qualifying as a traumatic stressor. Approximately one-third of mothers develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after ECS. This is important because PTSD not only impacts on the well-being of the woman and her partner, but may also significantly interfere with the attachment relationship with the baby, with negative consequences for its development. To date, no evidence-based early intervention to prevent the development of postnatal PTSD has been published. At the heart of PTSD are intrusive traumatic memories in which the woman re-experiences aspects of her traumatic childbirth. Cognitive science studies in analogue populations by Holmes and colleagues (2009, 2010) have demonstrated that a visuospatial cognitive task, such as the computer game Tetris, can significantly reduce the frequency of traumatic intrusive images following the experimental exposure to traumatic film material. To date, these findings have not been translated into clinical practice. A proof-of-principle study comparing usual care plus visuospatial cognitive task with usual care found a significant reduction in intrusive traumatic memories and a trend towards reduced acute stress re-experiencing symptoms in the intervention group after 1 week compared to the control group (intention-to-treat analyses).