A friend posted about the latest study making the rounds regarding miscarriage/loss and the impacts on those who experience it. Basically, the study showed that in both the short and long term, women who experienced loss had fairly high rates of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. I’ll admit that I myself, while very much appreciating the fact that the study (finally) validates my own experiences, rather side-eyed the amount of surprise the researchers expressed at how high the numbers came out. Clearly, they haven’t spent much time around people going through infertility/ectopic/miscarriage/loss, because this seemed pretty obvious to me.
My friend, however, noted that the article talks about how the researchers “hope the findings will encourage women to speak more openly about miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy and help others understand the impact of early pregnancy loss on women.” I checked it out a little further, and the article states: “Having a greater appreciation of the results hopefully with enable friends, colleagues, employers, and family members to better support women and their partners going through a pregnancy loss.” As my friend noted, there’s very little about better helping women connect with mental health care or how the medical care of these conditions might change.
Peer support is a marvelous thing. Openness is a marvelous thing. I mean, I’m here, blogging about miscarriage and infertility as are a lot of others. I have no trouble talking about my own miscarriages in real life. Peer support and community and blogs got me through some of the darkest moments of this thing. Peer support and speaking out and awareness matters.
But it’s not the only thing that’s necessary here.
When I was pregnant with M, I almost lost my mind through the first trimester. Unfortunately, that’s not hyperbole. I was anxious beyond all possible belief and struggling through panic attacks regularly. I had intrusive flashbacks to my first pregnancy – a missed miscarriage – that left me in a terrible place. Add in a subchorionic hematoma that also left me bleeding/spotting semi-regularly, which caused a great deal of concern thanks to my third pregnancy, and I was a total wreck.
I’m incredibly fortunate because my OB, who knew my history, had me to come in weekly through the first trimester to check for a heart beat until I could pick it up on my home doppler, then feel movement. I do not think I could have coped and functioned otherwise, because that’s how extreme the anxiety had gotten. I also had access to mental health/therapy, which helped at other times. Peer support is wonderful, but I needed access to professionals and a different plan of care than the current standard. I had it, but I’m also pretty certain I’m an exception, not the rule.
To this day, I still get an absolute pit of fear in my stomach when people announce pregnancies, separate from any sadness/jealousy left over from the infertility because I know how much can go wrong. I breathe a sigh of relief when people pass 13, 24, 28, 32, 34 weeks’ gestation. Ultrasound pictures, among other triggers, can still send me into flashbacks and intrusive thoughts/memories or occasionally outright panic attacks. Part of me hates to acknowledge that despite the fact that I’ve had some good outcomes, I still struggle (yep, therapy – among other things – are a part of my life currently).
What I’m saying is, how does the medical system need to change to adjust for this study (and I say this as someone who has a career in healthcare, so this is not an abstract question for me)? How do we connect people better with mental health professionals? Do we need to see more follow-up appointments? Better screening tools?
How can we encourage women to speak out about their experiences without making it a mandate, another “to do” for people already in pain?
I sincerely hope that this study is a call for new goals/initiatives/treatment plans, well beyond what currently exists, not only awareness.
This post is a part of Microblog Mondays. If you want to read more or participate, head over to Stirrup Queens! Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.