Mental health problems after a miscarriage
Some women and partners develop mental health problems because they lost their baby. Depression and anxiety are common, but some women may develop other issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or perinatal obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
“I suffered with nightmares after my miscarriages and had great difficulty sleeping. It wasn’t until after my 5th miscarriage that I realised these factors were symptoms of PTSD. I want other women to be diagnosed earlier than I was, as it makes a massive difference in the healing process.”
A mental health condition is not a sign of weakness, something that will go away on its own or something that you should just ‘snap out of’. Most mental health conditions can be treated with the right care and support.
If you’re worried that you or your partner are struggling to cope after losing a baby, please talk to your GP.
Depression after a miscarriage
Depression is when you feel sad or in a low mood all the time for weeks or months, not just a few days. The condition can vary from mild to severe and can affect people in different ways.
What are the symptoms of depression?
Signs of depression include:
- feeling generally down most of the time
- losing interest in things you used to enjoy
- not being able to concentrate or make decisions
- feeling like you don’t enjoy life
- feeling tearful
- feeling irritable and not wanting to be with other people
- feeling restless and agitated
- losing your self-confidence
- feeling worthless
- feeling guilty
- losing your appetite or not being able to stop eating
- having trouble sleeping
- losing or gaining a lot of weight
- thinking about suicide.
You may not have all these symptoms and they may come on gradually or you may suddenly start to feel very low.
If you feel like you want to harm yourself or feel like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone. This could be a family member, a friend, your GP or your midwife. Help is available now if you need it. You can call the Samaritans on 116 123.
Anxiety after a miscarriage
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. Everyone feels anxious sometimes, but some people find it hard to control their worries. Some people with anxiety also have panic attacks, which can be very frightening.
What are the symptoms of anxiety?
Symptoms of anxiety can include:
- feeling anxious all or most of the time and not feeling able to control it
- feeling very worried (for example, in pregnancy you may feel constantly worried about your baby)
- feeling a sense of dread
- being unable to concentrate, or feeling like your mind goes blank
- feeling irritable
- feeling constantly on edge
- difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Panic attacks can come on very quickly and for no apparent reason. Symptoms can include:
- a racing heartbeat
- a feeling of dread or fear of dying
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- feeling faint
- shaky limbs
- a churning stomach.
Most panic attacks last for between 5 and 20 minutes. They can be very frightening, but they are not dangerous.
Asking for help after a miscarriage
It’s a good idea to talk to your or GP if you:
- have symptoms of depression or anxiety
- feel you can’t cope with daily life
- have intense emotions that are not getting better or are getting worse
- are not sleeping well
- think your relationships are suffering
- are caring for someone who's not coping well
- have panic attacks
- have unpleasant thoughts that keep coming back and you can’t control them.
Tell your GP how you feel. They will want to ask you some questions to understand a bit more about your symptoms before talking about your treatment options.
Post-traumatic stress disorder after a miscarriage
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Some people experience post-traumatic stress after a miscarriage.
PTSD can develop immediately after an event or it can happen weeks, months or even years later. It can be very difficult to come to terms with a traumatic event, but PTSD is treatable even if it’s been years since the event happened.
What are the symptoms of PTSD?
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- flashbacks to the experience
- nightmares about the experience
- repetitive and distressing images or sensations
- physical sensations such as pain, sweating, feeling sick (nausea) or trembling
- constant negative thoughts about the experience
- trying to feel nothing at all (emotional numbing) and trying to distract yourself to avoid thinking about what happened
- avoiding places, people or other things that remind you of the traumatic event
- watching out for danger or threats and being easily startled
- difficulty concentrating
- angry outbursts
- sleeping problems
- stomach pain.
Tell your GP if you are having upsetting thoughts. It may be very difficult to talk about your thoughts and feelings, especially after a distressing experience. Remember that healthcare professionals won’t judge you.
What treatment is available for PTSD?
The main treatments for PTSD are therapy and medication.
Your GP may carry out an assessment of your symptoms before you’re referred to a mental health specialist for more assessments. You may be referred to a clinic that specialises in treating PTSD if there is one in your area.
Getting support after a miscarriage
If you're worried that you or your partner are not coping, you may need some treatment or counselling. There are support groups that can arrange counselling for people who have been affected by miscarriage. Your GP may also be able to tell you more about bereavement services in your area.
You can also talk to a Tommy’s midwife free of charge from 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday on 0800 0147 800 or you can email them at [email protected]. Our midwives are also trained in bereavement support.