In the weeks and months following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, a significant amount of women will develop long-term post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, nine months after experiencing a pregnancy loss, 18 percent of women had PTSD, 17 percent had anxiety and 6 percent reported having depression.
For the study, researchers at Imperial College in London and KU Leuven in Belgium surveyed 737 women who had a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy (where the embryo attaches to the outside of the uterus, making it unviable) about their mental health at three points — one, three and nine months later.
In the first month after a pregnancy loss, 29 percent of women reported having PTSD symptoms, 24 percent had moderate to severe anxiety and 11 percent had moderate to severe depression. While those numbers all dropped by the nine-month mark, the figures are still “terrifyingly high,” Jessica Farren, an obstetrician and gynecologist at St. Mary’s Hospital in London and lead author of the study, told New Scientist.
“We have a problem on our hands that we haven’t up until now properly acknowledged or looked to treat,” she said.
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Women with PTSD often have negative thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, a detachment from friends and family and are easily startled or frightened, according to the Mayo Clinic. PTSD can also led to eating disorders, problems with drug or alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts or actions.
Farren said that the research reinforced the need for better resources for women who experience pregnancy loss so it isn’t “brushed under the carpet.”
“In an ideal world, there would be some sort of screening [for mental health symptoms] after a miscarriage,” she said.