Pregnancy loss can be devastating for expectant parents. When the joy and excitement of the idea of a new family member comes to an abrupt end, deep sorrow often sets in. We will be discussing the psychological impact of losing a pregnancy.
Pregnancy Loss Statistics
Pregnancy loss is more common than many realize. Miscarriage is defined as spontaneous loss of a baby prior to 20 weeks gestation. It is estimated that 12-15% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. When all conceptions are considered (including chemical pregnancies), it is estimated that 30-60% of pregnancies result in miscarriage. Unfortunately, due to the silence that often accompanies pregnancy loss, miscarriages are rarely discussed.
What are the Psychological Effects of Miscarriage?
Miscarriage has been associated with a greater likelihood of developing depression. Although most women experience psychological distress following depression, approximately 10% have symptoms which meet the criteria for major depression. Symptoms of depression include loss of interest in normal activities, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, tearfulness, changes in sleep, difficulty concentrating, decreased energy, and isolating from friends and families. In some cases, individuals may also have suicidal thoughts.
Recent studies suggest that miscarriage can also result in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health condition that develops after a traumatic event. It is estimated that approximately one-third of women develop PTSD following pregnancy loss.
What Are Red Flag Symptoms Following Pregnancy Loss?
There are several concerning symptoms that may occur following pregnancy loss. If you experienced any of these symptoms, it may be important to reach out to your physician:
Panic attacks: You may feel disconnected, panicky or out or control while experiencing a panic attack.
Self-harm: You may have thoughts of hurting yourself in order to deal with the overwhelming emotions that you are experiencing following your loss.
Suicidal feelings: You may feel that the world would be better off without you, have abstract thoughts regarding death or make plans to end your life.
Nightmares: You may have nightmares related to your loss.
Intrusive thoughts or flashbacks: You may have intrusive thoughts related to your loss or flashbacks of your miscarriage.
Healing After Losing Your Baby:
Although it may be difficult to appreciate while experiencing grief, symptoms often decrease over time. Research indicates that rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD decrease in the months following miscarriage.
There are several things that can be done to facilitate healing following pregnancy loss. For many couples, it is helpful to reach out to family and close friends. Discussing the loss and your grief can be beneficial in allowing you to process the situation. You may be surprised to hear that many in your inner circle have also experienced pregnancy loss. Second, it is important to allow yourself time to grieve. You may have some good days and some days which are more difficult. This is a normal part of grieving. Finally, it may be helpful to discuss your feelings with a counselor. Attending counseling sessions as a couple may help improve communication and allow you to both express your emotions following the loss.
Pregnancy loss can be a devastating experience for expectant parents. Following loss, individuals are more likely to experience mental health issues, including depression and PTSD. It is important to be aware of serious symptoms that may warrant medical assistance. Developing a support circle and participating in counseling may assist parents to heal following low.
Have you experienced the grief following pregnancy loss? Please share your advice or words of encouragement in the comments below.