Frequent silent suffering of women experiencing ectopic pregnancy and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

1 in 5 (21%) of women who experience ectopic pregnancy have symptoms of post-traumatic stress at least nine months after the trauma, according to the largest ever study into the psychological impact of early-stage pregnancy loss.

The study, welcomed by The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust which concurs with its findings, was conducted by scientists at Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium and studied over 650 women who had experienced an early pregnancy loss. The majority of women had suffered an early miscarriage (pregnancy loss before 12 weeks) or an ectopic pregnancy (where an embryo starts to grow outside the womb and is not viable).

The study revealed that, one month following pregnancy loss, nearly a third of women (29 per cent) suffered post-traumatic stress while one in four (24 per cent) experienced moderate to severe anxiety, and one in ten (11 per cent) had moderate to severe depression. 21% of women who have an ectopic pregnancy continue to have symptoms of PTSD at least nine months after the experience.

Alex Peace-Gadsby, Chair for The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust, said: “Every week, The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust supports women through high levels of grief and fear, many of whom show symptoms of post-traumatic stress following their ordeal of ectopic pregnancy. As this study highlights, hundreds of women are left undiagnosed every year and fall through the gaps in getting the care that they need. Many of these women do not get better with peer support alone and the evidence shows generic counselling after pregnancy loss is not useful. Things need to change so that women and their families can be better supported.”

We back calls for:

  • Women who experience ectopic pregnancy to be screened for symptoms of PTSD;
  • Those testing positive for PTSD to have access to psychological therapy specialising in such trauma;
  • A broader awareness among the medical profession and appropriate training that the emotional impact of an ectopic pregnancy far exceeds that of the physical impact.