stress and anxietyWomen who conceive via assisted reproduction are more likely to suffer psychological trauma after early pregnancy loss, according to a study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Miscarriage is considered the most common pregnancy complication. Miscarriage affects up to 20% of clinical pregnancies. Researchers from the University of Hong Kong completed the study at Queen Mary Hospital with the aim to report on the psychological effect of miscarriage prior to the 12th week of pregnancy.

The study investigated psychological trauma in 150 women. Of those 150 women, 75 achieved pregnancy naturally and 75 achieved pregnancy with medical assistance. The groups were followed from 2008 to 2010 for anxiety and stress.

The method of conception and age were the only significant differences between the two groups. The assisted group averaged 37 years of age while the natural pregnancy group averaged 31 years of age. Women in the assisted group carried pregnancies about six days less than the natural pregnancy group prior to miscarriage.

Psychological impact information after miscarriage was collected via interview and questionnaire. Women were asked to answer questions on three occasions – week one, week four and week 12 – post miscarriage.

Interviews and questionnaires revealed a difference in psychological trauma between the two groups of women, despite the women having the same demographic background. Anxiety and stress levels were highest during the week one interview/questionnaire, but the assisted group suffered psychological trauma nearly twice as often as the natural pregnancy group.

According to Dr. Cheung Sze Yan Charleen, study co-author, “Our results identified significantly higher stress, anxiety and depression levels in women who conceived after assisted reproduction, leading us to conclude that miscarriage resulted in greater psychological trauma to these women.”

Authors also noted that prompt psychological support should be available to women suffering miscarriage, especially if the pregnancy was achieved via medical assistance. “Elevated emotional stress after miscarriage could therefore be associated with the duration of subfertility and the need of assisted reproduction.”

Source: Charleen Sze-yan Cheung, Celia Hoi-yan Chan, Ernest Hung-yu Ng. Stress and anxiety-depression levels following first trimester miscarriage: a comparison between women who conceived naturally and following assisted reproduction. BJOG 2013;