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Miscarriage can lead to long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

A new report that suggests that many women experience post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression after a pregnancy loss. The research was carried out at the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Imperial College London and results were published in January 2020.

Early pregnancy loss affects a significant number of women and can happen through miscarriage, or the less common condition of ectopic pregnancy.

It is widely known that losing a baby in the early stages of pregnancy may lead to anxiety and depression, but there has been little research into post-traumatic stress in women who have lost pregnancies.

The London-based study used questionnaires to identify symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress in women who had had an early pregnancy loss. Questionnaires were sent to women 1 month, 3 months and 9 months after the pregnancy loss.

The results showed that, out of the women answering the questionnaire at 1 month:

  • around 29% had symptoms of post-traumatic stress

  • 24% had symptoms of anxiety

  • 12% had symptoms of depression

At 9 months after a pregnancy loss, 18% had symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events, and causes people to relive the event though nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts or images that appear at unwanted moments. The symptoms can start weeks, months or even years after a traumatic event and can cause sleeping problems, anger, and depression.

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.

These PTSD symptoms can also be experienced by women who have experienced a difficult or traumatic full-term labour and can have a significant impact on how the new mother copes with a new-born, how she bonds with the baby and it may even stifle future plans to try for another baby.

I have a personal interest in helping mums-to-be or new mums who are finding that they need emotional support. Both of my pregnancies were complicated and far from enjoyable, and my second labour was long and difficult.

As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I am trained in techniques that will significantly reduce these distressing symptoms and free suffers from the grips of PTSD or anxiety, so that they can get on with loving, caring and enjoying being a new mum.

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