Moms who have experienced one or more miscarriages may be at higher risk for depression and anxiety, even when their current pregnancies result in a healthy baby, according to a study led by the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Published online March 3, 2011, by the British Journal of Psychiatry, researchers assessed over 13,000 women for miscarriage history and symptoms of depression and anxiety. The majority of women reported no miscarriages. But just under 3,000 women had experienced one or more previous miscarriages or stillbirths in previous pregnancies. Among this group of moms, almost 13 percent still had symptoms of depression almost three years after the birth of a healthy child. Of those with two or more previous miscarriages, almost 19 percent had symptoms of depression following the birth of a healthy child.
"Our study clearly shows that the birth of a healthy baby does not resolve the mental health problems that many women experience after a miscarriage or stillbirth," says Dr. Emma Robertson Blackmore, assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Medical Center and the lead researcher. "This finding is important because, when assessing if a women is at risk [for depression during pregnancy] or postnatal depression, previous pregnancy loss is usually not taken into account in the same way as other risk factors such as a family history of depression, stressful life events or a lack of social support."
Pregnancy loss by miscarriage or stillbirth affects more than an estimated one million women in the United States annually. Between 50 and 80 percent of women who experience pregnancy loss become pregnant again. But until now, a history of pregnancy loss was not viewed as a top contributor to postpartum depression.
"We know that maternal depression can have adverse impacts on children and families," says Robertson Blackmore. "If we offer targeted support during pregnancy to women who have previously lost a baby, we may be able to improve health outcomes for both the women and their children."
Is the memory of a miscarriage triggering troublesome emotions during your current pregnancy? Be sure to share worrisome thoughts with your doctor or midwife.