Misconceptions about stress, distress, and miscarriage

The NHS Choices website outlines some misconceptions about miscarriage and concludes that “increased risk of miscarriage is not linked to a mother's emotional state during pregnancy, such as being stressed or depressed”.

I’m sure if you’ve experienced a miscarriage, the nurses and doctors will have reassured you that there was nothing you did to cause it. However, I know that women will almost inevitably blame themselves and scour their memories for what they might have done that could have resulted in their loss. This seems to be a natural and normal response, but it can be extremely painful if you feel you or your body was the cause of it.

Most women I see who have experienced a miscarriage for the first time were not at all stressed or distressed before it happened. In fact, they are usually quite the opposite - very happy and with every expectation that it would continue for the remaining gestation period.  And yet they still, sadly, lost the pregnancy. Equally, I see many women who have suffered multiple losses and who are as distressed and anxious as it’s possible to be - and yet they go on to carry a pregnancy to full term and have their longed-for baby in the end. So, what does this tell us?

It’s an understatement to say that it’s stressful trying for a baby when all around you seem to do it so quickly and effortlessly, but stressing yourself about getting stressed and fearing your stress levels are the cause of your difficulties is soul-destroying and only serves to make women feel responsible and to blame for their lack of a family.

It is of course a good idea to reduce stress in your life if you can – through mindfulness, yoga, relaxation, gentle exercise, counselling or whatever helps you cope with the difficulties you are experiencing – but only because it makes a sometimes long and emotionally difficult journey more bearable. And the better you cope with this challenging and testing life event the more likely you are to be able to keep going until you succeed in the end.