Pregnancy loss is heartbreaking for all mothers who suffer this experience, and it takes time to recover from emotional and physical pain.
However, some mothers also experience a less common reaction to pregnancy loss related to trauma. The traumatic event of pregnancy loss can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder in some women.
Here are some important facts to be aware of surrounding PTSD related to pregnancy loss:
1) Any traumatic event can result in post-traumatic stress, including pregnancy loss, according to Gary Brown, a licensed psychotherapist in Los Angeles, California.
However, a diagnosis for PTSD can’t be made until 30 days after trauma. Anything less than 30 days is just considered to be a normal response to severe stress.
2) Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in part due to feeling out of control and afraid of death during a traumatic event.
Just like with any traumatic event, how you cope relates to how you perceive what happened, said Crystal Clancy, a licensed marriage and family therapist and co-director of Pregnancy and Postpartum Support MN.
However, risk factors that predispose certain people to develop mental disorders like PTSD also come into play.
3) Risk factors can help determine who is more at risk of developing PTSD after pregnancy loss. However, even women at risk for PTSD may never develop the condition.
Some risk factors include going through a dangerous and traumatic event, getting injured, as well as feeling helpless and extremely fearful, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Other possible risk factors are a history of other mental health issues, having minimal social support after a traumatic event, and experiencing additional stressors after a traumatic event, the NIMH reported.
4) There are several possible events related to pregnancy, labor and delivery that can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, Brown said in an email.
These can include loss of the baby, the birth of a baby with obvious abnormalities, and medical issues with the baby that require an extensive stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Other possible related events include inattentive medical personnel, and labor that involves complications.
5) The traumatic event and resulting trauma are not your fault, and you’re not crazy for feeling this way.
Brown lets all of his clients know at the beginning that they are having normal reactions and are understandably upset about abnormal events in their lives.
It helps as part of the recovery process to know that they aren’t responsible for the trauma and most certainly didn’t want the trauma to occur.
6) Symptoms of PTSD are wide-ranging after pregnancy loss. Symptoms can include flashbacks and recurrence of traumatic memories, nightmares, and fear or avoidance of places and objects associated with the loss, according to Jessica Wade, a clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio.
Sufferers may experienced avoidance of places associated with pregnancy and babies, and avoidance of sex with the fear that sex could lead to pregnancy and a repeat of trauma, Wade said.
7) Women who experience PTSD may also suffer from depression and anxiety. After a pregnancy loss, women struggling with these conditions may ruminate and have exaggerated negative beliefs about what their role was in their pregnancy loss, according to Wade.
8) Creating a memorial is one way to cope with the loss you’re experiencing along with PTSD. You can create a memorial (with or without an object) in order to celebrate the life of your lost baby in a positive manner.
This may serve as a way to remember your baby in a meaningful way and create peace with what happened, Wade said.
It can be as simple as taking time to think about your angel baby, or you can even include family and friends in a ceremony dedicated to your baby.
9) Get into a regular routine again to help cope with your trauma. Even if you don’t want to go to work, it can be helpful to resume normal activities as soon as you’re physically able to, Brown said.
10) Taking care of your physical and emotional needs after a traumatic event is essential. Make sure to get proper rest for your recovering body and mind even more than usual, Brown said.
Be sure to properly hydrate your body and give your body the nutrition it needs in order to keep running smoothly. Be gentle and patient with yourself throughout this process, as it will take time to recover.
Reviewed May 16, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
Brown, Gary. Email interview. May 10, 2016.
Wade, Jessica. Email interview. May 11, 2016.
Clancy, Crystal. Email interview. May 10, 2016.
National Institute of Mental Health. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Risk Factors. Web. May 12, 2016.