Norman Brier is Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, United States.
Anxiety After Miscarriage: A Review of the Empirical Literature and Implications for Clinical Practice
Article first published online: 21 MAY 2004
Volume 31, Issue 2, pages 138–142, June 2004
How to Cite
Brier, N. (2004), Anxiety After Miscarriage: A Review of the Empirical Literature and Implications for Clinical Practice. Birth, 31: 138–142. doi: 10.1111/j.0730-7659.2004.00292.x
- Issue published online: 21 MAY 2004
- Article first published online: 21 MAY 2004
Abstract: Background: Most practitioners now view a miscarriage as a significant psychosocial stressor that results in a high level of dysphoria and grief. Anxiety, although also commonly present, is less frequently considered and less frequently addressed. A review of the empirical literature was conducted to determine if anxiety after a miscarriage is elevated, and if risk is increased for particular types of anxiety syndromes. An attempt was also made to identify the types of interventions that have been found to be helpful in alleviating anxiety. Methods: An electronic search of the Medline and Psych Info databases were conducted using the keywords “miscarriage,”“perinatal loss,”“pregnancy loss,”“anxiety,”“trauma,” and “stress.” The searches were not intentionally circumscribed by date. Further searches were then carried out using references. Studies were subsequently included only if most women in a study sample experienced the pregnancy loss before 20 weeks’ gestation. Results: The literature was relatively limited. With respect to level of anxiety after a miscarriage, 4 studies were located that employed a matched comparison group design, and 3 that employed a follow-up design. Three studies that used a matched comparison design were located with respect to an increased risk for particular anxiety syndromes. A significant percentage of women experience elevated levels of anxiety after a miscarriage up until about 6 months post-miscarriage, and they are at increased risk for obsessive-compulsive and posttraumatic stress disorder. Conclusions: Practitioners, as part of routine care after a miscarriage, should screen for signs of anxiety as well as depression. When signs of anxiety are present, opportunities for catharsis, understanding, and legitimation are likely to be helpful, as is reassurance that the stress is likely to appreciably lessen over the next 6 months.