Baby loss doubles the risk of anxiety and depression

Baby loss doubles the risk of anxiety and depression
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Baby loss through miscarriage or early in the child’s life causes women to be more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than those who did not, according to a new study.

A study suggests that the loss of a child due to a miscarriage or early in the children’s life can result in women being two times more likely to suffer from depression and one and a half times more likely to experience anxiety than those who have not suffered from baby loss.

Depression is a low mood that occurs for long periods of time and can affect everyday life. There are specific types of depression, for example:

  • Season affective disorder (SAD) – depression that occurs during seasons or times of the year.
  • Dysthymia – continuous mild depression that lasts for two years or more.
  • Prenatal depression – depression that occurs during pregnancy.
  • Postnatal depression (PND) – depression that occurs in the first year after giving birth.

However, anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear that can be mild or severe. It can become intense or overwhelming and interfere with everyday lives and relationships.

The effect of baby loss

New research from the University of Edinburgh looked at 29 international studies from 17 countries with analysis on data collected from more than one million women.

The team of researchers examined studies published between January 1995 and March 2020 on how perinatal loss – baby loss during the period of conception through to 28 days post-delivery – affected common mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress (PTS).

The study analysed the data to identify factors that could influence mental health outcomes, including the type of baby loss, the stage of pregnancy, and factors such as income status in which country the mothers live and their maternal age.

The results of the studies

Researchers accounted for women who did not experience loss but had a difficult birth.

As well as being more at risk of anxiety and depression, the study found similar levels of these mental health conditions after loss in low, middle, and high-income countries. Maternal age had no significant effect on depression outcomes, experts said, but being a younger mum was associated with a small increase in anxiety levels.

Perinatal loss did not result in any significant effects on PTS outcomes, the study found.

“The study takes a step towards mapping the global status of research in this field, providing key information to help understand the link between miscarriage and perinatal loss and mental health conditions. The association between perinatal loss and elevated levels of anxiety and depression is consistent across loss types, comparison groups and country income rankings. It provides further evidence for prioritising mental health following a loss,” commented Dr Angus Macbeth at the School of Health in Social Science.

Researchers say there are opportunities for further studies, including exploring the impact of recurrent loss on mental health and wellbeing.

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