The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust backs calls for women who have suffered an ectopic pregnancy to be routinely screened for post-traumatic stress disorder

The Charity has welcomed the findings of a study by researchers at Imperial College London that suggests women may be at risk from post-traumatic stress after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and calls for women who have suffered pregnancy loss to be routinely screened for post-traumatic stress and receive specific psychological support.

Ectopic Pregnancy Trust chairman Alex Peace-Gadsby said: “Both miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy are devastating experiences for families and have a huge emotional impact on everyone. If a woman suffers an ectopic pregnancy the family goes through both an emotional and physically traumatic experience where they are faced with the loss of a baby, major invasive surgery or treatment, often in an emergency situation, facing their own mortality and the loss of part of their fertility all in a single experience.

We regularly support women suffering from PTSD because of their ectopic pregnancy and are pleased there is now formal research that evidences the link. Not all women will need or want psychological support but it is very important that those that do are identified and have access to the support they need”.

The Imperial College London study, published in the journal BMJ Open, surveyed 113 women. 80% had suffered a miscarriage and 20% had experienced an ectopic pregnancy. They were sent questionnaires asking about their thoughts and feelings.

They found that, three months after their pregnancy loss, four in ten women (40%) met the criteria for probable post-traumatic stress disorder, which can cause nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts and images.

The women in the study who met the screening criteria for PTSD reported re-experiencing
the feelings associated with the pregnancy loss, and suffering intrusive or unwanted thoughts about their loss. Some reported having nightmares or flashbacks, while others avoided anything that may remind them of their loss, or friends and family who were pregnant. Nearly a third said their symptoms had impacted on their work life, and around 40% said relationships with friends and family had been affected.