New research has warned that tens of thousands of women may be suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after having a miscarriage. In fact, researchers from Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research estimate that as many as 45,000 women could be experiencing symptoms of PTSD as a result of a miscarriage. According to the NHS, symptoms of PTSD include: flashbacks; nightmares; repetitive and distressing images or sensations; as well as physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling.
The study's findings showed that women with current or prior mental health problems may be at a higher risk of experiencing psychological illness – like PTSD – a month after an early pregnancy loss. However, the research also revealed that a large portion of women without prior mental heal issues were also experiencing similar illnesses following a miscarriage.
As such, both Tommy's and Professor Tom Bourne (who carried out the study) are campaigning for better mental health support for women who've suffered a miscarriage. "This research should send an important message to clinicians: even a diagnosis of loss very early in the pregnancy, often referred to as 'biochemical pregnancies', and a loss with mild physical symptoms, may result in significant psychological distress later, and must be treated with compassion," Professor Bourne said.
"We believe that screening after a loss is a more appropriate way of targeting treatment than a prediction model, which may leave many women with no previous psychological problems without the support they need," he added. "This is because it is assumed they will not need it."
Speaking on behalf of Tommy's, the charity's chief executive, Kath Abrahams, said: "Tommy’s has long campaigned for the government to better invest in miscarriage prevention and treatment, and to change the current UK policy of waiting until a woman has gone through three miscarriages in a row before any support, tests or treatment are offered."
She continued, "As research continues to show, the mental health impact of miscarriage is profound, much greater than previously thought, and it is affecting those who miscarry and their partners in the short and long term. Mental health support must be made available after every miscarriage for those who need it."
As for the kind of mental health support women could receive, Professor Bourne revealed he and his team are testing the use of virtual reality headsets to offer women a calming experience during miscarriage procedures. "[The aim is] to transport them to sort of a more calm, virtual reality world for distraction from the pain and anxiety during the procedure," said researcher Dr Nina Parker.
"There is nothing that we are ever going to be able to do that takes away from the loss and the trauma of losing pregnancy and having a miscarriage," Dr Parker added. "But if we can do everything that we can to minimise any additional trauma we might be adding to in the interactions that are had within the hospital, then we are obligated to do that."
If you're looking for support or more information about premature births, stillbirths or miscarriage, Tommy's have a free helpline 0800 0147 800 (open 9-5, Monday to Friday). There's also a Facebook group.
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