Mental Health

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If you or someone you know needs support with an ectopic pregnancy, please feel free to contact us.

Post-traumatic Stress (PTS)

We know that following an ectopic pregnancy up to one in three women may develop distressing symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTS), anxiety, or depression. Studies also suggest that one in 12 partners experience PTS after early pregnancy loss.

PTS can develop after experiencing a very stressful or traumatic event. Research has shown that PTS may be the most common mental health disorder following ectopic pregnancy and can persist if left untreated. Everyone’s experience if PTS is different but the symptoms of PTS mainly fall into four categories:

  • Re-experiencing and reliving aspects of the traumatic event: Flash-backs, nightmares, feeling distressed when reminded of the event and physical feelings such as pain, palpitations, sweating, or nausea.
  • Feeling excessively alert or on edge: difficulty sleeping (insomnia), irritable, angry, anxious, feeling easily startled, difficulty concentrating.
  • Avoidance and/or feeling numb: avoiding people or places that are reminders of the traumatic event, suppressing memories, trying to feel nothing (numbness).
  • Negative thoughts and feelings: self-blame, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, difficulty feeling safe or understood. 

Anxiety

Everyone experiences anxiety at times but when anxious feelings become constant, overwhelming, or disproportionate for the situation then you should seek help. Anxiety can cause both mental and physical symptoms:

Mental:

  • Feeling on edge, tense, nervous or unable to relax
  • Feeling worried or having a sense of dread
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Feeling restless and irritable
  • Feeling low in mood
  • Thinking a lot about bad experiences over and over again (rumination)
  • Feeling disconnected from your mind and body or the world around you 

Physical:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Palpitations (sense of heart beating in the chest)
  • Sweating or trembling
  • Stomach-churning or feeling sick 
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness, or pins and needles 
  • Muscle tension and aches 
  • Panic attacks

Depression

Symptoms of depression can manifest themselves both mentally and physically:

Mental:

  • Feeling low, upset, or tearful 
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Feeling guilty or worthless 
  • Finding no pleasure in things you usually enjoy 
  • Feeling irritable 
  • Feeling numb 
  • Having thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts

Physical:

  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Loss of energy or feeling tiered all the time 
  • Loss of interest in sex (loss of libido)
  • Moving very slowly or being restless
  • Difficulty thinking clearly

What to do if you are struggling with your mental health

If you suspect that you might be feeling depressed, or anxious, or have symptoms of PTS, we strongly suggest seeing your doctor/GP or you can refer yourself.

The NHS has a short screening questionnaire that may be able to equip you to seek help.

Having concerns about mental health is not a weakness and no one should feel embarrassed about seeking help. It is not something that can just be “snapped out of” and requires treatment. 

Treatment for mental health issues following ectopic pregnancy:

More research is needed to understand the best ways to support or treat people affected by ectopic pregnancy psychologically following the experience. However, we know that in other circumstances PTS, anxiety and depression can all be effectively treated with psychological therapies and or medication. 

Recommended talking therapies for PTS:

  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talking therapy that focuses on how the way you think can affect your feelings and behaviour and teaches you coping skills for different problems. Trauma-focused CBT is a type of CBT that has been adapted for people with PTS.
  • Eye Movement Desensitisations and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR involves reprocessing difficult memories of traumatic events to stop them from causing so much distress. 

Recommended talking therapies for anxiety:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talking therapy that focuses on how the way you think can affect your feelings and behaviour and teaches you coping skills for different problems.
  • Applied Relaxation: therapy that focuses on teaching how to relax your muscles particularly in situations that make you anxious.

Recommended talking therapies for depression:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talking therapy that focuses on how the way you think can affect your feelings and behaviour and teaches you coping skills for different problems.
  • Behavioural Activation (BA): BA is a talking therapy aiming to help increase pleasurable activity to reduce low mood.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT is a talking therapy that helps to identify problems in relationships with family, partners and friends. 

If you think you have symptoms of PTS, anxiety or depression and would like to explore the option of talking therapies you must speak to your doctor/GP or refer to our Counselling and Talking Therapies section for other options.

Get in touch

If you or someone you know needs support with an ectopic pregnancy, please feel free to contact us.

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