History of pregnancy loss increases the risk of mental health problems in subsequent pregnancies but not in the postpartum

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

Fruit a depression-buster for women

Eating two or more pieces of fruit a day can help women fight off depression

Women who eat fewer than two serves of fruit a day face a greater risk of developing depression, University of Queensland research shows.

UQ School of Population Health’s Professor Gita Mishra said the findings of a six-year study of more than 6000 Australian women revealed a clear link between fruit consumption and the development of depressive symptoms.

“We found that women who ate at least two servings of fruit a day were less likely to suffer from depression than women who ate fewer servings, even after taking into account other factors such as smoking, alcohol, body mass index, physical activity, marital status and education,” Professor Mishra said.

“We also found that eating two or more servings of fruit a day protected women from developing depression in the future.”

Professor Mishra said researchers had not found a link between vegetable intake and depression.

“More research is needed on the different effects of fruit and vegetables, but this may be because fruit has higher levels of anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, such as resveratrol, which is not found in vegetables.”

She said the findings highlighted the importance of a diet high in fruit to avoid the development of depression in middle age.

“Women experience depression at about twice the rate of men, and the rate of depression is growing rapidly.

“By 2030 it is expected to be one of the world’s top three diseases, making it a priority area for public health interventions.”

Researchers surveyed participants in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, an Australian Government-funded project that is one of the world’s largest and longest-running studies of women’s health and wellbeing.

The research is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in a paper by Professor Mishra, UQ’s Professor Annette Dobson and the University of Sydney’s Dr Seema Mihrshahi.