A loss at any stage of pregnancy can be traumatic and can impact your prenatal mental health in subsequent pregnancies.
You’re not alone
According to the Office on Women’s Health, about 10-15% of confirmed pregnancies are lost. The number is likely higher when taking into account those who lose pregnancies before they even know they’re pregnant. The fact that this experience is common doesn’t make it any less devastating.
About 20% of women who experience a miscarriage become symptomatic for depression and/or anxiety. Some groups are more at risk for experiencing these feelings. This includes those who are of lower socioeconomic status, are Hispanic, or have a history of infertility or pregnancy loss. And for anyone who has experienced a loss, becoming pregnant again can trigger some of these feelings.
Below, learn more about becoming pregnant after pregnancy loss and how to manage mental health issues that arise after losing a baby.
Pregnancy loss causes
Suffering a miscarriage or another form of pregnancy loss can make you wonder what you did wrong. The truth is, that the vast majority of the time you could have done nothing to change this outcome. 50% of the time, miscarriage occurs when the fetus isn’t developing properly due to an abnormal gene or chromosome – which is completely out of your control. In a few cases, a mother’s health condition can lead to miscarriage.
Throughout your pregnancy, unless told otherwise by a doctor, most activities are not off-limits. You can exercise, work, have sex, and live your day-to-day life without compromising the health of your baby. However, there are several risk factors, including smoking, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and having previous miscarriages.
Pregnancy loss mental health issues
Pregnancy loss can cause depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD. Some women may experience obsessive thoughts, panic attacks, and even apprehension about trying to conceive again. According to the American Pregnancy Association, at least 85% of women who have had one loss will go on to have a successful pregnancy the next time, as will 75% of those who have experienced two or three losses. Even with a healthy baby, though, some women’s mental health may continue to be affected by their loss.
Prenatal mental health
Your pregnancy may trigger memories of past loss and mean that part of this journey is honoring the one who came before. While these feelings can be messy, experiencing them doesn’t mean you’re any less grateful for your baby or excited to meet them.
Allow yourself to grieve and honor your feelings. Your feelings matter. You may want to seek counseling or a couple’s counselor if you’re in a relationship. Pregnancy loss can impact both partners in different ways.
Even once you become pregnant again, you may still be dealing with complicated emotions: jealousy over other people’s healthy babies, guilt over losing yours, and sadness over a lost future. This is completely normal. The experience of loss can be extremely isolating. Finding a support group or relying on friends and family that understand what you’re going through can be incredibly helpful throughout your pregnancy and on your journey to healing.
And if you’re not feeling like yourself, it’s time to speak with a therapist or your provider about available treatment options.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- Nynas, Johnna, et al. “Depression and Anxiety Following Early Pregnancy Loss: Recommendations for Primary Care Providers.” The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 29 Jan. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4468887/.
- “Miscarriage.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 July 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/symptoms-causes
- “Pregnancy after Miscarriage.” American Pregnancy Association, 16 July 2021, https://americanpregnancy.org/getting-pregnant/pregnancy-loss/pregnancy-after-miscarriage