A new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology confirms what many mothers believe: pregnancy loss brings about overwhelming and intense emotions that can even lead them to suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
To the many of us who have suffered from an early or ectopic pregnancy loss, it doesn’t surprise us that research continues to validate the intense and raw emotions those losses bring. Researchers from the Imperial College in London and KU Leuven in Belgium released the results of a new study that confirms women who have early miscarriage or ectopic pregnancies are also more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and suggests that an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage brings losses to women that some don’t often give credibility to as they do with later pregnancy loss or child loss. For these women, experts say that miscarriage can be the loss of dreams, personhood, promises and even self-identity.
The researchers asked 650 women who’d either suffered miscarriage before 12 weeks or an ectopic pregnancy to fill out standardized surveys that looked at their mental health when they were one, three, and nine months past their loss. An ectopic pregnancy is one where the embryo grows outside of the uterus, and often requires intervention to prevent the embryo from growing and causing the mother additional injury.
The results of the survey showed that at one month after their loss, 29% of the women experienced PTSD and 24% experienced severe anxiety. Of the surveyed, 11% of the women experienced moderate to severe depression.
The results of the nine-month assessment showed drops in all of those statistics, with 18% still suffering from PTSD, 17% with anxiety and 6% suffering from depression.
In an interview with Today Parents, Dr. Priya Goplan said that the study highlights how much suffering goes on for women who suffer miscarriage or ectopic pregnancies. Dr. Gopalan is the chief of psychiatry at UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. She did not participate in the research but does confirm that the grieving process with miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy can escalate to the PTSD level for some women.
She says the importance of this study is not so much as to confirm what many women and clinicians already know as much as it is to show its relevance to PTSD. She says that while many medical professionals have gotten better at identifying postpartum anxiety and depression, screening for women’s health after they suffer from miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and stillbirths should be expanded. Dr. Gopalan believes that clinicians need to be more proactive in helping women who may potentially struggle after a loss, as the PTSD can be so debilitating and impairing.
Especially as women with PTSD are more likely to suffer from additional physical health problems and are at more risk for depression and anxiety. Women who experience PTSD for more than six months are more likely to struggle their entire lifetimes with the trauma symptoms.
Here’s hoping this study continues to build on the need for awareness and support for mothers who experience pregnancy loss.
If you’ve suffered from a miscarriage and/or pregnancy loss and are looking for resources, remember you are not alone. Here are a few organizations committed to supporting you.
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