Pregnancy after loss and coping with PTSD

PTSD is being talked about a lot in the media today. It’s important to recognise that PTSD can affect anyone. If you’ve been through a traumatic birth or if you have experienced baby loss in a previous pregnancy through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death, you may be more likely to experience PTSD.

Illustration of woman suffering from PTSD

Pregnancy blog, 15/01/20 

A recent study by Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium, has revealed the extent of women affected by PTSD after experiencing an early miscarriage (before 12 weeks) or an ectopic pregnancy. In a study of 650 women, 29% showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress 1 month after losing a baby. This declined to 18% after 9 months.

The study also found that 1 month after losing a baby, 24% of women had symptoms of anxiety and 11% had symptoms of depression. After a period of recovery (9 months) these percentages decreased, reducing to 17% and 6% after 9 months.

"Miscarriage services need to be changed to ensure they are available to everyone and women are followed up to assess their mental wellbeing with support being offered to those who need it, and advice is routinely given to prepare for a subsequent pregnancy."

Jane Brewin, Chief Executive of Tommy’s

We don’t want the recent news about PTSD to alarm any new mums, but it’s importance to raise awareness that these feelings are shared by others and treatment is available. If you are concerned you may have PTSD or any other mental health conditions triggered by pregnancy complications or loss, you are not alone, and you don’t need to suffer in silence. More is being understood about this condition, it’s not a failure, it’s not just grief and going into your next pregnancy, it’s important you have all the tools you need to maintain your mental wellbeing.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Symptoms of PTSD vary from person to person, but they may 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
  • anxiety and depression

You can read more about symptoms on our website.

It’s important to remember that you can have treatment for PTSD. Talk to your partner, family or a friend about what happened and how you are feeling, if you can. Try not to feel guilty or embarrassed. These thoughts and feelings are not your fault.

Pregnant again after experiencing PTSD

Extra care you will receive

In a pregnancy following loss, you should have the option of an extra early pregnancy scan to help reassure you. This should happen at your local Early Pregnancy Assessment unit at around 7-8 weeks. You should then also be referred to both Obstetric care and perinatal mental health midwife services for your ongoing antenatal care, to ensure you are well supported. If a clear plan of care if needed, that you have one from early on in your pregnancy. If you need counselling or CBT, this will usually also be available through the perinatal mental health teams vast range of services.

"I went for a private scan at seven weeks and heard the most wonderful words, ‘there’s the heartbeat’. After that though, any twinge or pain sent me in to a major panic. As I approached nine weeks – the point where I miscarried last time – my anxiety went into overdrive. I would dread every hospital appointment in case it was bad news, but I’m pleased to say it all went well."

Read more about Clare’s journey to getting her rainbow baby.

You can read more about the study here.

Read more about PTSD on our website.

You can contact our midwives to talk through any feelings you’re having from Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. You can call us on 0800 0147 800 or email us at [email protected]

 

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