PTSD and Pregnancy Loss
Women who experience pregnancy loss have high rates of PTSD. I went to a boutique IV clinic, because I felt low on energy and thought I’d try vitamin therapy. During the course of my treatment, I felt my heart pound at a rapid speed and suddenly I could not control the rate of my breathing. I felt lightheaded and my entire arm went numb and throbbed with pain. The nurse gently reassured me that the pain was coming from my panic. The physical pain and panic flooded my body while my brain flashed back to traumatic images from the last time that I had an IV, a pregnancy loss in the second trimester.
I went home, felt exhausted, and consulted with a friend who is a medical doctor. We concluded that I had a flashback related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) surrounding my pregnancy loss. I began to wonder, “Am I alone? Do other people experience this after pregnancy loss?”
Pregnancy Loss and PTSD
Women who experience pregnancy loss have PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The longer women are pregnant before miscarrying, the more likely they are to have high levels of grief. These women are more often diagnosed with PTSD. As maternal age increases, pregnancy loss frequency increases. The psychological symptoms resulting from these losses influence the overall well-being of a woman and her partner.
Ectopic pregnancies differ slightly for women, because women are forced to terminate, what is often, a wanted pregnancy. This dilemma leads to psychological symptoms, and these women experience even higher rates of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Many women do go on to become pregnant again. These women are twice as likely to experience feelings of sadness, low mood, and excessive worry. We know that PTSD influences a person’s ability to work and engage with others. If you know someone who experienced a pregnancy loss allow them to talk to you about their loss. Validate their feelings of grief, confusion, and sadness. Refer them to a qualified mental health professional, if you see signs of anxiety, depression, or PTSD.
Signs of anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms include excessive worry, unrelenting sadness and grief, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, uncontrolled anger, panic, and restless sleep. These symptoms usually persist for longer than one month, and may interfere with the person’s ability to work or relate to loved ones.
The cultural silence and lack of mourning rituals further complicates the grieving process. Women and couples are left alone to process the grief. They are unsure where to turn for help and feel isolated.
A qualified mental health professional can help women and couples process the grief. They are qualified to treat mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Women and couples also benefit from social supports, so please reach out to friends or family who experience pregnancy loss. Isolation increases their grief and sadness. They want you to listen and validate their feelings. Resist the urge to make things better with your words. Simply listen, nod your head, and tell them how much you know this hurts. Couples today wait longer to start families, so we will likely see more miscarriages and perinatal losses. Continue this conversation. Share this post with anyone you know who is hurting from pregnancy loss. Extend your love and support to women and couples who are grieving.
Rebecca Ray is a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate and the owner of Modern Family Therapy, PLLC. She is under the supervision of David M. Lawson, LMFT-S, Lic. #2137.