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Baillieres Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 1989 Dec;3(4):769-90.

The loss of early pregnancy.


It is often assumed that early loss of pregnancy is not followed by emotional distress. When such distress does occur, it often goes undetected. Early loss of pregnancy is frequently followed by typical grief such as that occurring after any bereavement. Most recent studies have shown that although social termination of pregnancy in the first trimester has few adverse psychological sequelae for most women, there are vulnerable women who do experience significant emotional distress afterwards. Risk factors for poor psychological outcome include poor social support, past psychiatric history and ambivalence about the termination. The procedures used for second trimester terminations of pregnancy are likely to be a particular source of distress. Psychiatric disorder may also follow if termination is refused. Careful assessment of all women before social termination will identify vulnerable women who may benefit from counselling and support afterwards. After spontaneous abortion or miscarriage, many women experience significant emotional distress, which persists for several months. Guilt and anger are common. Some women are particularly vulnerable to developing psychiatric disorder after spontaneous abortion, for example women with a past psychiatric history, poor social support, previous spontaneous abortion and personality traits such as neuroticism. Many women would benefit from follow-up and support afterwards; extra support and reassurance are often needed during the next pregnancy. Termination for fetal abnormality is more likely to induce grief than relief for many women; these pregnancies are usually wanted, second trimester terminations are distressing, and there is often guilt at destroying a life and/or opting out of rearing a handicapped child. Recent research has demonstrated substantial levels of psychiatric morbidity after termination for fetal abnormality, particularly in those with a past psychiatric history, those with poor social support, and those who feel they have opted out of bearing a handicapped child. Women receive little support of follow-up after such terminations, yet many would benefit from it. Such women are in particular need of reassurance and support during a subsequent pregnancy.

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