Study shows partners experience posttraumatic stress after miscarriage
Partners of women who experienced a miscarriage may be at risk for developing posttraumatic stress, according to research published in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“Partners are often ignored when a woman experiences pregnancy loss,” Tom Bourne, MBBS, PhD, of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Imperial College London, said in a press release. “Yet this research suggests that although partners do not suffer [posttraumatic stress] as often as women, there still could be many thousands of partners living with posttraumatic stress, which is a serious condition that requires treatment.”
Earlier this year, Bourne and colleagues published a study that found women experience increased rates of posttraumatic stress following miscarriage.
To determine if partners experienced posttraumatic stress after miscarriage, Bourne and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study of women and their partners recruited early in their pregnancy at three hospitals in London. Participants were individually emailed surveys to assess their depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress at 1, 3 and 9 months after an early pregnancy loss.
The researchers recruited 192 couples who experienced early pregnancy loss. Although the study was open to same-sex and transgender couples, only cisgender opposite-sex couples were encountered and enrolled in the study.
The researchers determined that among partners, 7% met the criteria for posttraumatic stress at 1 month, 8% met the criteria at 3 months and 4% met the criteria at 9 months.
In comparison, women who suffered miscarriage met the criteria of posttraumatic stress at a rate of 34% at 1 month, 26% at 3 months, and 21% at 9 months.
Bourne and colleagues also determined that partners had lower rates of moderate or severe anxiety than women who experienced miscarriage. In partners, the proportion of those who experienced anxiety at these levels was 6% at 1 month, 9% at 3 months and 6% at 9 months. In comparison, women who experienced miscarriage had anxiety at rates of 30% at 1 month, 25% at 3 months and 22% at 9 months.
The researchers noted that although rates of posttraumatic stress were lower in partners of women who experienced a miscarriage, the findings are important due to the high frequency of such pregnancy losses and the seriousness of posttraumatic stress.
“We have made significant progress in recent years in breaking the silence around mental health issues in pregnancy and postnatally, but early pregnancy losses are still shrouded in secrecy, with very little acknowledgement of how distressing and profound an event they are,” Bourne said. “This research suggests psychological support should be offered to both the woman and her partner, with couples given the option of attending therapy together.”