The Impact of Pregnancy and Infant Loss on Mental Health: Seeking Support
Posted on October 11th, 2023
Pregnancy or infant loss often has a significant and lasting impact on a family’s individual and collective mental health, resulting in a complex grieving process. Seeking the right support during this time is crucial for healing and coping. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the impact that pregnancy and infant loss have on mental health, as well as provide tips on how to find support.
Pregnancy, Infant Loss, and Mental Health
After the loss of a pregnancy or an infant, individuals and families can experience a wide range of emotions, including intense sadness, grief, anger, emptiness, helplessness, or even guilt. Many aspects of life and mental health can be affected by pregnancy and infant loss.
Depression and Anxiety
Pregnancy and infant loss can lead to clinical depression, anxiety disorder, or worsen pre-existing mental health conditions. Clinical depression differs from feelings of sadness or low mood in that it involves persistent depressed mood, causing significant impairment in daily life. Other symptoms of clinical depression include prolonged sadness, loss of interest in activities, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite or an increase in appetite, trouble concentrating, and intrusive thoughts.
Pregnancy and infant loss can lead to or worsen symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or specific pregnancy-related phobias.
Consult your primary care provider or a mental health professional if you have symptoms of anxiety, clinical depression, or any other symptoms of mental illness. If you have suicidal thoughts or plans of self-harm, contact a mental health professional or call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can develop in response to a traumatic pregnancy or birth experience or the loss of an infant; this is particularly true if the loss is sudden. A 2021 study revealed that PTSD was diagnosed in up to 25% of expectant mothers who had suffered perinatal (i.e., during pregnancy and up to a year after birth) loss.
Coping with the loss of a pregnancy or an infant can strain relationships with partners or other family members. The grieving process may differ from one person to another and between spouses or partners, potentially leading to tension and misunderstanding.
Self-Esteem and Identity Issues
Pregnancy and infant loss can challenge an individual's identity and self-worth. It may lead to questioning one's ability to conceive, carry a pregnancy to term, or positively parent a child.
Coping with Pregnancy and Infant Loss
There are many ways to cope with pregnancy and infant loss.
Therapy and Counseling
Mental health support, such as individual therapy or couples counseling/therapy, can offer a safe space for processing feelings, learning coping strategies, and coping with grief.
It’s important to prioritize your well-being during this challenging time by engaging in activities such as:
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing meditation or mindfulness
- Engaging in hobbies
- Taking part in activities that bring comfort and relaxation
As members of the fertility care and assisted reproduction community, Aspire Fertility is deeply compassionate for anyone who has ever experienced a pregnancy loss or the loss of an infant. Having support after experiencing this loss is often key to healing and building resilience. Remember that everyone's grieving process is different, it's important to find support that you can relate to from family members, friends, support groups, online communities, or healthcare professionals.