Women may be at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, a new study has found.
The research was carried out by scientists from Imperial College, London and involved 113 women who had recently experienced a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. The majority of the women in the study had suffered a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, while around 20 per cent had suffered an ectopic pregnancy.
The scientists sent the women questionnaires asking them about their thoughts and feelings after their pregnancy loss. The results revealed four in ten women reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) three months after the pregnancy loss. Among the women who suffered a miscarriage, 45 per cent reported PTSD symptoms at this time, compared to 18 per cent of the women who suffered an ectopic pregnancy.
The women in the study who met the criteria for PTSD reported regularly re-experiencing the feelings associated with the pregnancy loss, and suffering intrusive or unwanted thoughts about their miscarriage.
Some women also reported having nightmares or flashbacks, while others avoided anything that may remind them of their loss, or friends and family who are pregnant.
Furthermore, nearly a third said their symptoms had impacted on their work life, and around 40 per cent reported their relationships with friends and family had been affected.
The researchers say the findings suggest women should be routinely screened for the condition, and receive specific psychological support following pregnancy loss.
Dr Jessica Farren, lead author of the research from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College, said:
"We were surprised at the high number of women who experienced symptoms of PTSD after early pregnancy loss. At the moment there is no routine follow-up appointment for women who have suffered a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. We have checks in place for postnatal depression, but we don't have anything in place for the trauma and depression following pregnancy loss.”
Miscarriage affects one in four pregnancies in the UK, and is defined as the loss of a baby before 24 weeks, although most miscarriages occur before 12 weeks. Ectopic pregnancies are much rarer, affecting around one in 90 pregnancies.
The study is published in the journal BMJ Open.