Study Draws Connection Between Miscarriage, Ectopic Pregnancy, & PTSD

PTSD and miscarriage pregnancy

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that the effects of trauma on women went, for the most part, ignored for centuries. But in 2020, when women’s rights movements continue to gain momentum and the experience of those assigned female at birth (AFAB) becomes of greater concern to the public at large, we’re beginning to see more studies dedicated to what’s happening with women — particularly how traumatic events can impact them in the long run.

A new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, is the “largest-ever study into the psychological impact of early-stage pregnancy loss,” according to MedicalXpress. Tommy‚Äôs National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Imperial College London brought in researchers who studied 737 women who either suffered a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. For those who are unfamiliar, an ectopic pregnancy is one that occurs outside the uterus where a baby cannot grow. Because it’s impossible for a fetus to make it to term in these conditions and it poses a risk of death for the person carrying the child, medical professionals typically terminate the pregnancy as early as possible.

The study found that a third of women who experience early pregnancy loss had some sort of psychological effects. For 11%, they experienced moderate to severe depression in the month after the incident; 24% experienced moderate to severe anxiety, and a whopping 29% of those who had miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies suffered from PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nine months after, the numbers dropped, but still, 41% of research subjects were experiencing one of the aforementioned mental health problems, with PTSD still taking up the largest percentage.

“Pregnancy loss affects up to one in two women, and for many women, it will be the most traumatic event in their life,” the lead author of the research, Professor Tom Bourne, said of the study. “This research suggests the loss of a longed-for child can leave a lasting legacy, and result in a woman still suffering post-traumatic stress nearly a year after her pregnancy loss.”

He continued, “The treatment women receive following early pregnancy loss must change to reflect its psychological impact, and recent efforts to encourage people to talk more openly about this very common issue are a step in the right direction.”

While many won’t necessarily find it surprising that a pregnancy loss is a traumatic event that can stick with someone for a long time, the fact that medical professionals are only now looking into it is a cause for concern. How can we serve AFAB people during pregnancy when we haven’t thoughtfully studied the complete risks of these conditions?

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