Researchers at Imperial College London and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium led a study looking at the psychological impact of miscarriage before 12 weeks or ectopic pregnancy.
479 participants were asked to complete questionnaires about their emotions and behaviour one month after a pregnancy loss, then again three and nine months later. The researchers compared their responses to 171 women who had healthy pregnancies.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed that almost a third of participants experienced symptoms of PTSD at the one-month mark and 18 per cent at nine months. In addition, 24 per cent experienced anxiety and 11 per cent were diagnosed with depression.
“This research suggests the loss of a longed-for child can leave a lasting legacy, and result in a woman still suffering post-traumatic stress nearly a year after her pregnancy loss,” Professor Tom Bourne, the study’s lead author said.
“The treatment women receive following early pregnancy loss must change to reflect its psychological impact, and recent efforts to encourage people to talk more openly about this very common issue are a step in the right direction.”
The authors recommend that women who have miscarried are screened to find out who is most at risk of psychological problems. While many find counselling and support help them cope with their symptoms, those with PTSD need specific treatment if they are going to recover.