Women who have a miscarriage may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Self reports.
A study conducted by the Imperial College London found that nearly half of the women surveyed experienced PTSD symptoms after miscarrying.
Researchers surveyed 113 women, all of whom had recently had a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. Most women lost their pregnancy in the first few months.
Four in 10 women surveyed experienced PTSD symptoms three months after miscarrying. Women reported symptoms such as moderate to severe anxiety, depression, and distress; “intrusive or unwanted thoughts;” and nightmares or flashbacks. Other symptoms included avoiding reminders of the miscarriage and re-experiencing feelings from the loss.
As is common with many who suffer from PTSD, many of these women reported that their lives were negatively impacted by their symptoms. About a third said their work lives were affected and about 40 percent said their personal relationships were.
“I didn’t have to look at a medical study to see this association – it’s something I’ve seen ever since I’ve been practicing,” OB/GYN Dr. Sherry Ross of California’s Providence Saint John’s Health Center, said. “The emotional effects of a miscarriage have been completely underestimated for women and their partners. It’s something the medical community has to be more aware of and more sensitive to.”
Roughly one quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage, putting many women at risk for PTSD.
Miscarriages are a very emotional and personal trauma for couples. Psychiatrist Gail Saltz, M.D. said, “A wanted pregnancy stirs many fantasies of the child and the family-to-be, even at the earlier phase. This fantasy is very real and very wished for, so loss of the pregnancy…feels like the loss of the would-be child and the would-be family.”
A variety of factors could contribute to whether or not a miscarriage triggers PTSD in a woman. If the pregnancy was wanted, if the miscarriage occurs after a long time trying to conceive, and if the miscarriage was sudden or came after noticeable cramping can all factor in to if a woman develops PTSD.
Women who have a miscarriage can join support groups, talk to other women who have lost a pregnancy, or consult with their doctor to help get through the experience.
“If in the first weeks there is anxiety, sadness, nightmares, and social withdrawal, those women need help via support of friends and family, therapy, and sometimes medication,” Saltz said. “By treating it early, you lessen the likelihood of going on to develop PTSD.”