Women Who Suffer Miscarriages or Ectopic Pregnancies Are at Risk of Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder

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Pregnancy loss can result in PTSD.Photo: Frederic Cirou/Getty Images/PhotoAlto

Suffering a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy can be absolutely devastating for a woman. Now, a new study found that experiencing either of those heartbreaking events can also put women at risk of developing post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD).

Scientists from Imperial College London examined 113 women who recently endured a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo implants outside of the uterus. Between 10 and 15 percent of all confirmed pregnancies result in miscarriage, while ectopic pregnancies are less common, affecting approximately 1 out of 50 pregnancies.

In the study, which was published in the journal BMJ Open, 40 percent of participants reported symptoms of PTSD three months following the pregnancy loss. PTSD is caused by distressing events, and its sufferers constantly relive their trauma through nightmares, intrusive thoughts or images, or flashbacks. Symptoms can pop up weeks, months, or years after such an event.

The women reported having regularly intrusive thoughts about their loss, and that they kept re-experiencing the feelings they felt when the pregnancy loss occurred. Many reported avoiding anything that reminded them of the loss, including pregnant friends and family, while others suffered nightmares and flashbacks. Nearly 40 percent said the symptoms affected their relationships, while almost 33 percent said the symptoms affected their work.

“We were surprised at the high number of women who experienced symptoms of PTSD after early pregnancy loss,” lead study author, Dr. Jessica Farren of Imperial College London, said in a statement. “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.”

The scientists noted that more research must be done to determine why certain women are at risk of PTSD. The findings suggest that women who experience miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies should be routinely screened for PTSD, though.

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