Understanding the impact of miscarriage on your mental health

Last year, thousands of women told Healthwatch about their experiences of mental health problems during and after pregnancy – including those who lost their babies. As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week, we’re sharing stories people have shared.

Last year, thousands of women told us about their experiences of mental health problems during and after pregnancy – including those who lost their babies. As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week, Healthwatch are sharing stories people have shared about the impact of miscarriage and stillbirth on their mental health, and the call from women for more opportunities to talk about their mental health.Every year, thousands of people in the UK are affected by the death of a baby or experience pregnancy loss. Baby Loss Awareness Week, which takes place between 9-15 October, aims to raise awareness of pregnancy and baby death in the UK and gives bereaved parents, their families and friends the opportunity to come together to commemorate babies’ lives.This year, the campaign is focusing on the lack of timely access to psychological therapies for people who need extra mental health support following pregnancy or baby loss and calling for quicker access to support for bereaved parents.

Beth*’s story

Beth lost her son Ed* at 17 weeks. She then had a miscarriage less than a year later. She and her husband have two daughters Laura* and Emma*. She told Healthwatch about the impact her experience had on her mental health and how she’d like care to improve for mums like her.

“It was two months after losing Ed that I realised I needed some help. I was having horrendous flashbacks, reliving the worst experience of my life, from the moment the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat to the birth, and the emergency surgery that followed.

“An online survey at an NHS counselling service revealed I was suffering from PTSD but there was nobody to help me.”

I was told that group bereavement wasn’t appropriate as I’d not lost a ‘loved one’. I was devastated – Ed was a person, he was our son and he was very loved and wanted.

“Afterwards, I went for one counselling session with the Miscarriage Association but didn’t feel it benefited me, I wasn’t ready at the time. My way of coping was to get a full-time job, stay busy and try not to think.

“In September I fell pregnant after a family trip to Yorkshire and I was a wreck throughout. Emma arrived on June 1 2017 and it was the most amazing sense of relief knowing that she was alive and well. My mental health continued to suffer after she arrived. I’d sit up and watch my baby every night, convinced that, if I went to sleep, something would happen to her. I’d stand at Laura’s bedroom door too, just watching her breathe.

“I also managed every aspect of Laura’s life, I was terrified of losing her. I wouldn’t let her paddle in the sea for fear she’d slip on the rocks and die, or that there would be a freak tsunami. I’d worry so much that I’d bring on panic attacks, hyperventilating and making myself sick.

“I was in a really bad place and eventually saw my GP who prescribed anti-depressants. I had private counselling for three months and it turned everything around. After three years struggling on my own, I now feel so much better. I’m enjoying my children, rather than just focusing on keeping them alive, which was such a huge amount of pressure to put on myself.

“I understand the NHS is under enormous pressure but when you consider one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, it’s disgusting there’s no support for women like me. I’m so lucky, my parents and husband have been fantastic, but I can’t help thinking about women who don’t have that support.”

What did people say about their experiences?
Although only a small proportion of the women we heard from had suffered baby loss, there are some common themes to the experiences they shared.
  • They felt that they were left alone to deal with the aftermath of what happened – just given a leaflet and expected to get on with it.
  • That services didn’t always follow up with them and see if they needed mental health support.
  • That there was a lack of information about how people should expect to feel when they lose a baby.
  • That there is a big gap between how well you’re treated physically, and how much consideration is given to your mental health.
What changes would people like to see?
  • Proactive support from professionals – don’t expect people to be able to identify the support they need for themselves.
  • More than a leaflet – people need space to talk about how they’re feeling.
  • Support for partners.
  • Better communication so staff know if people have experienced multiple miscarriages 

*Please note that the names in these stories are not their real names and have been anonymised. 

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