Depression and anxiety suffered after perinatal loss may continue for years after having a healthy child

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry has found that the psychological impact of perinatal loss can last up to several years – even after the birth of a healthy child.

This study followed over 13 000 women through their pregnancy and up to 3 years after and each reported their previous losses and self-reported measures of anxiety and depression during the duration of the study. The purpose was to examined the degree to which symptoms of depression and anxiety associated with a previous loss persisted following a subsequent successful pregnancy.

Past studies have shown that women who experience perinatal loss (miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss) are at a bigger risk for developing depression and/or anxiety but this study focused on the longer term effects of loss even after a healthy pregnancy. The conclusion of this study has found that the depression and anxiety associated with perinatal loss can last even three years after the delivery of a healthy child.

A member of the research team, Jean Golding, 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.”

Pregnancy loss is not routinely considered a risk factor for antenatal or postpartum depression in the same way as other risk factors are (like history of depression, stressful life events, etc). This study shows that assessing loss history would be valuable as a predictor of current and postpartum risk and as a possible marker for intervention.

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Devan McGuinness

is the founder and executive director of the award-winning resource Unspoken Grief .

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