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Clinical negligence specialists welcome study on pregnancy loss and PTSD

Clinical negligence lawyers who have represented women suffering psychological trauma following pregnancy loss welcome new study


2 November 2016

Clinical negligence lawyers, who have represented many women who have suffered psychological trauma following pregnancy loss, have welcomed a new study which examines the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to women who have experienced a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

The study, by experts from Imperial College London, found that of the 133 women who took part 38% showed signs of probable PTSD three months after suffering the loss of a pregnancy.

The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, was conducted on women who had attended the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in west London for symptoms such as pain or bleeding. All the women were asked to fill in a questionnaire about their thoughts and feeling after losing their baby.

Those suffering with PTSD reported that they often re-experienced the feelings associated with the loss of their baby. Some suffered nightmares or flashbacks and reported that they had avoided friends who were pregnant or family members leading to an impact on their work and relationships.

Dr Jessica Farren, lead author of the research, said: "We were surprised at the high number of women who experienced symptoms of PTSD after early pregnancy loss. At the moment there is no routine follow-up appointment for women who have suffered a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

"We have checks in place for postnatal depression, but we don't have anything in place for the trauma and depression following pregnancy loss. Yet the symptoms that may be triggered can have a profound effect on all aspects of a woman's everyday life, from her work to her relationships with friends and family."

The team behind the research have said that they are planning larger follow-up studies.

Gemma Castrofilippo, solicitor in Leigh Day’s clinical negligence department, said: “It is of paramount importance that women have access to the psychological support they need during and after pregnancy.  Women who suffer pregnancy related mental health issues need to know that there are professionals willing to talk through what has happened and explore suitable treatments with them. The onus must be on the professionals to follow-up and ensure women’s psychological wellbeing, by tailoring treatment to individual circumstances; be that early pregnancy loss, stillbirth or postnatal depression.  No woman should suffer in silence.”

Emmalene Bushnell, partner in Leigh Day’s clinical negligence department, has acted for a number of women who have suffered PTSD as a result of ectopic pregnancy.  More recently she settled a case involving a woman who suffered an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy which led to the removal of her only fallopian tube, having had the other tube removed in an earlier operation. The woman, who was unfortunately unable to conceive naturally, developed symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks and recurrent nightmares. She was subsequently diagnosed with a major depressive episode and PTSD.

Emmalene said: “This new study by Imperial College London is a positive step forward in examining mental health issues, including PTSD,  following the loss of a baby through miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. It is crucial that more work is done in this area to ensure that healthcare professionals understand the mental health issues arising from baby loss. We have seen a number of cases that have resulted in psychological harm to women who have suffered the traumatic loss of their baby and it is vital that professional help and support is available.”

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