Women who experience a pregnancy loss, including medical termination, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and stillbirth, commonly experience mental health problems such as depression and anxiety following the loss. However, little is known about mental health outcomes during subsequent pregnancies and following healthy births.

The aim of this study was to examine the impact of pregnancy loss on mental health in subsequent pregnancies and during the postnatal period. Data were obtained from a sub-sample of 584 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health who had previously experienced a loss.

  • Nearly half of the women (45.5%) indicated that they experienced at least one emotional issue during their most recent pregnancy with anxiety being the most commonly reported issue (26.4%), followed by stress or distress (25%), and sadness or low mood (20.2%).
  • Just over half of the women (51.9%) reported at least one emotional issue during the postnatal period, with sadness and low mood being the most commonly reported issue (30.1%), followed by stress or distress (25.3%) and anxiety (22.3%).
  • Women who had a previous pregnancy loss were more than twice as likely to report excessive worry during a subsequent pregnancy, and were also more likely to report sadness or low mood.
  • However, there was no relationship between prior pregnancy loss and any emotional issue during the postnatal period.

Women who have experienced a pregnancy loss are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems during subsequent pregnancies. It is important to monitor the mental health of these women during this time, and if necessary offer anxiety or stress interventions. Such interventions will potentially benefit the woman, as well as reduce adverse outcomes for offspring.

Citation: Chojenta C, Harris S, Reilly N, Forder P, Austin M-P, Loxton D (2014). History of pregnancy loss increases the risk of mental health problems in subsequent pregnancies but not in the postpartum. PLOS One, 9(4): e95038. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095038

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