One in six women suffers from long-term PTSD symptoms after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, research suggests.
Scientists questioned 650 women who lost their baby about their psychological condition after the heartbreaking news.
Almost a third of the women suffered from post-traumatic stress a month later. Others were plagued by anxiety and depression, as well as guilt and shame.
And 18 percent of the women surveyed still had PTSD nine months later, re-experiencing their devastating loss through nightmares and flashbacks.
It has long been known that a miscarriage has a devastating effect on the mental health of mothers.
But the new study, the largest ever into the psychological effects of a lost pregnancy, exposes the long-term impact.
Experts have now called for mental health care to be achieved in the year following their loss.
One in six women suffers from long-term post-traumatic stress (supply) almost a year after a miscarriage
As it looks now, women are offered a follow-up appointment with their doctor where they can ask to make contact with charities and therapists.
But for some women they can refuse help because they believe that their sorrow will disappear. Not for many and they are left to fend for help.
One in six pregnancies ends in a miscarriage – usually before or around 12 weeks.
They usually occur because the fetus does not develop normally. Half is associated with extra or missing chromosomes.
According to estimates, there are 250,000 miscarriages in the UK every year, of which around 11,000 are ectopic pregnancies. There are nearly a million in the US.
How at least one in six pregnancies ends in miscarriage
One in six pregnancies among women who know they are pregnant are going to be miscarriages.
But even more happens with women who do not know that they have become pregnant.
Miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy is lost within the first 23 weeks after conception.
The main symptoms are bleeding from the vagina, which can be accompanied by pain in the lower abdomen.
There are several reasons why women can have a miscarriage – it is common and usually not caused by something they have done.
If a miscarriage occurs in the second trimester – between weeks 14 and 26 – this may be a sign of an underlying problem.
Often miscarriages are isolated events and women will have successful pregnancies.
Most miscarriages cannot be prevented, although being healthy in general helps to reduce the risk.
Losing three or more pregnancies in succession – known as recurrent miscarriages – is uncommon, but still affects about one in 100 women.
Ectopic pregnancies always lead to loss because an embryo grows in an area outside the womb and cannot develop.
Scientists from Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium have examined more than 650 women who had experienced early pregnancy loss.
Of these, 537 had a miscarriage prior to 12 weeks of pregnancy, while 116 had an ectopic pregnancy.
A month after a miscarriage, almost a third of women (29 percent) suffered from post-traumatic stress.
One in four (24 percent) experienced moderate to severe anxiety and one in ten (11 percent) had moderate to severe depression.
Nine months later, 18 percent of women had PTSD, while 17 percent had moderate to severe anxiety and 6 percent had moderate to severe depression.
Lead student professor Tom Bourne said: ‘For many women it is [miscarrying] will be the most traumatic event in their lives.
“This research suggests that the loss of a long-awaited child can leave a lasting legacy and cause a woman to have post-traumatic stress for nearly a year after her pregnancy.
“The treatment women receive after early pregnancy loss needs to change to reflect its psychological impact, and recent efforts to encourage people to talk more openly about this common problem are a step in the right direction.
“Although general support and counseling will help many women, those with significant post-traumatic stress symptoms will need specific treatment if they will fully recover.
“This is not available everywhere and we should consider screening women after an early pregnancy loss so that we can determine who needs the most help.”
The women in the study attended the Early Pregnancy Assessment Units at three London hospitals – Queen Charlottes and Chelsea, St Mary’s, and Chelsea and Westminster.
All were asked to complete a questionnaire about their emotions and behavior one month after the loss of pregnancy, and then three and nine months later.
Their answers were compared with 171 women who had a healthy pregnancy. The women in the study who met the criteria for post-traumatic stress regularly reported flashbacks about their miscarriage.
Some women also reported having nightmares, while others avoided anything that could remind them of their loss.
The authors warn that the study used a questionnaire for screening for post-traumatic stress, but formal diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) would require a clinical interview.
The team said the results could have been skewed because women who already had symptoms of post-traumatic stress would probably have responded to the questionnaire earlier.
But they add that the fact that such a large proportion experienced symptoms indicates that many women can suffer in silence.
Jane Brewin, general manager of Tommy’s charity, said: “Too long have women not received the care they need after a miscarriage, and this research shows the extent of the problem.
“Miscarriage services need to be changed to ensure that they are available to everyone, and women are monitored to assess their mental well-being with support provided to those in need, and routine advice is given to prepare on the next pregnancy. “
‘AFTER MY FIRST DIVISION I WAS NUMBER. THE SECOND TIME I CANNOT DEBT TO LEAVE MY FAMILY ‘
Kate Rawson, an actor and playwright, experienced two miscarriages in 2014 and 2015, one in eight weeks and one in 11 weeks.
She has written a radio play about recurring miscarriage, Little Blue Lines. Here she discusses her experience:
After my first miscarriage, I was stunned. I didn’t know how to respond or who to approach. I didn’t know if it was sadness that I felt, or that this was even a justified response to losing something so ‘small’.
So I tried to believe reassuring words: “It’s not your fault; you can try again; you have time; it’s just one of those things. “
The second time it happened, I immediately knew something was wrong, just a faint pink spot in my pants, a slight convulsive feeling.
Then fear and anxiety about what was to come and feelings of guilt about what I could have done to cause it – sadness for myself, but also my husband, my family, my friends who would have to do and conjure up all those sad faces and texts again.
The physical miscarriage was a huge shock that I was absolutely not prepared for and I will never forget it.
I tried to ‘continue’ as advised. “Trying again” was full of fear that got worse when I became pregnant for the third time.
Fortunately that resulted in a healthy full birth, but the first trimester was extremely stressful, both for myself and for my husband.
I struggled to keep the perspective and fluttered between wanting this baby and more than anything else that I wanted me to just bleed and get the terrible thing back with my life.
Only after my son was born did I realize the enormous size of what I had experienced and the need to process it – there are now support groups in my hospital but there was nothing for me at the time – so I wrote about it.