A miscarriage can cause depression and anxiety that continues even after the birth of a healthy baby, research has shown.
Women who have lost a baby are significantly more at risk of mental distress during a subsequent pregnancy, a study found.
The symptoms carried on for nearly three years, on average, after they successfully gave birth.
Professor Jean Golding, from the University of Bristol, one of the researchers whose findings are reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, said: “This study is important to the families of women who have lost a baby, since it is so often assumed that they get over the event quickly, yet as shown here, many do not. This has implications for the medical profession as well as the woman and her family.”
British and American scientists questioned more than 13,000 pregnant women enrolled into the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (Alspac).
They were asked about their previous experience of miscarriage and stillbirth, and assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The assessments took place twice during pregnancy and four times after giving birth.
In total, 21pc of the women reported having had one or more previous miscarriages. Only 0.5pc had experienced a previous stillbirth and just three women had suffered two stillbirths.
Dr Emma Robertson Blackmore, from the University of Rochester Medical Centre in the US, said: “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. This finding is important because, when assessing if a woman is at risk of antenatal 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.”
“We know that maternal depression can have adverse impacts on children and families. 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.”
Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This is a welcome report that makes an important contribution to our knowledge in this area. It underlines the need for midwives to be able to spend time with women to discuss their pregnancy and their worries and fears. This is so that they can spot signs of depression when it is happening, offer timely advice and give these women the best possible care.
“I worry that the because of the significant time pressures on midwives and the fact that we do not have enough of them, this may mean that women suffering from perinatal depression will not get the help they need.