Can Women Have Postpartum Depression After a Miscarriage?

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Of all the the challenging things a person may face in life, one of the most poorly understood is miscarriage. Even though miscarriage can be common with 44 pregnancy losses occurring every minute around the world, there is still little known about the causes of miscarriage. Not having an explanation, can make a miscarriage a difficult experience to understand and process.

Plus, many people find that experiencing a miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy can lead to a range of emotions. If you have recently experienced a miscarriage you may feel angry, sad, hopeless, and so much more. Everyone processes the grief that follows a miscarriage differently. No matter what you are feeling, though, your feelings are valid and deserve to be acknowledged.

But can you experience postpartum depression after a miscarriage? Here is what you need to know about grief after a miscarriage, including the risk of depression. You will also find tips on how to find support.

Grieving After a Miscarriage

It is normal to feel grief, even intense grief, after a miscarriage—no matter how early in your pregnancy the miscarriage occurs. Your grief may be particularly hard to navigate if you are many weeks into the pregnancy have already felt your baby move or told people about your pregnancy.

Even if you are just a few weeks along when you miscarry, you can struggle with intense grief at times. In fact, researchers have not identified a connection between the length of gestation and the intensity of a person's grief.

Many people get attached to their babies as soon as they find out they are pregnant, so even an early miscarriage can feel like a significant loss. If you suddenly lose a pregnancy, you don't just lose the fetus—you also lose an entire future that you may have imagined. What's more, if you have not told anyone you are pregnant, you may feel particularly alone and like you have to grieve silently.

Remember, too, that you will feel a wide range of emotions. In addition to sadness, you may feel angry, shocked, and even numb. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and acknowledge how you are feeling.

To further complicate things, many people do not understand miscarriage grief—especially if they have never experienced a miscarriage of their own. They expect may you to simply move on without processing what just happened. For this reason, it is important that you surround yourself with supportive people who will be there for you, offer a shoulder to cry on, and listen when you need to talk.

Stages of Miscarriage Grief

As you process the loss you just experienced, it is likely that you will go through the five stages of grief. These include the following:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Allow yourself to move through each stage, as this process helps you begin to heal. Also, be patient with yourself. Everyone processes their grief differently. However, if you feel stuck or are having trouble getting through your day-to-day activities, reach out to a mental health professional or a healthcare provider.

Miscarriage and Clinical Depression

Research shows that having a miscarriage puts you at risk for depression and anxiety symptoms not only right after the miscarriage but in the years to come as well. Even after having a healthy child, people who have had a miscarriage have a higher risk of postpartum depression. Studies also suggest that when depression occurs after a miscarriage, it may last for 1 to 3 years.

Plus, it's not an uncommon experience. Nearly 20% of women who experience early pregnancy loss experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. The key to distinguishing between the two is to look at how your feelings are impacting your life.

Both grief and depression have nearly identical symptoms. But, if your feelings are interfering with your ability to go about your daily routines for more than a few weeks after your miscarriage, or if they appear to get worse instead of better, there is a chance you are depressed. It is a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider to see if you might benefit from treatment for depression.

What is most important is that you seek help if you are feeling down. Even if you are not diagnosed with depression, it can help to talk to someone about your feelings.

Signs of Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, you may be depressed if you have been experiencing some of the following signs of depression for at least 2 weeks:

  • Having a persistent low mood
  • Experiencing feelings of hopelessness
  • Displaying irritability or anger
  • Wrestling with feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Having difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Forgetting things or struggling to remember things
  • Displaying changes in sleep habits (such as sleeping more or less)
  • Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
  • Losing interest in favorite activities
  • Experiencing unexplained aches and pains
  • Lacking energy or experiencing fatigue
  • Feeling like you are moving in slow motion
  • Experiencing restlessness or having trouble sitting still
  • Thinking about suicide, making suicide attempts, or engaging in self-harm

It is important to note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Even if you just experience two or three on this list, you should talk to a healthcare provider about your feelings.

Treating Your Depression

You and a healthcare provider can decide together whether the best intervention for your depression is medication (such as anti-depressant drugs), cognitive behavioral therapy (talk therapy), or a combination of the two.

The right answer will likely depend on what symptoms you have, how intense and frequent they are, and how long you've been feeling this way. Your healthcare provider will also want to know how your symptoms are affecting your everyday life and what other medications you may already be taking.

If you are actively trying to get pregnant, discuss your goals with a healthcare provider as well, because this fact may affect medications you are prescribed. However, don't assume that you can’t take an antidepressant when trying to conceive. In some cases, taking a medication for depression is a good idea, even when trying to get pregnant.

If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Finding Support

Talking to family members and friends after a miscarriage can be a challenge—especially if they have not experienced a miscarriage themselves. You're likely to receive platitudes about miscarriage, such as "at least you're young and can get pregnant again," or worse yet, "at least you didn't get to know the baby." Rather than being helpful as these comments are often intended, they can be hurtful, leaving you even more alone with your feelings.

Many people find it helpful to seek out those among their family and friends—or even people online—who have experienced a miscarriage. While there is nothing anyone can say to take away the hurt and pain, it can make you feel less alone to know that someone else has experienced at least a few of the feelings you are now coping with. They also may be able to share what worked for them and simply lend a supportive ear to listen.

The important thing is that you are finding support for what you are going through. Overall, research indicates that you should have an organized plan for coping with and healing from your miscarriage. This includes care for your physical and mental health as well as a solid support network. When these things are in place, you can feel informed, cared for, and supported.

A Word From Verywell

Grieving after a miscarriage is a complicated process and involves a wide range of emotions. One day you may feel sad, the next you may be angry and irritable. The key is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to experience your feelings. As time passes, your grief should become more tolerable—even though you will likely always mourn your loss in some way.

If you are struggling to process your loss or if your feelings of sadness and hopelessness are getting worse instead of better, talk to a healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can evaluate you for depression and offer some treatment options if needed. At the very least, it can help to talk to someone who understands what you are experiencing.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Psychological Association. Miscarriage and loss.

  3. Kersting A, Wagner B. Complicated grief after perinatal loss. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2012;14(2):187-194. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2012.14.2/akersting

  4. National Library of Medicine. Grief reaction. PMID:29939609

  5. Nynas J, Narang P, Kolikonda MK, Lippmann S. Depression and anxiety following early pregnancy loss: Recommendations for primary care providers. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015;17(1). doi:10.4088/PCC.14r01721

  6. National Institute of Mental Health. Depression: Signs and symptoms.

Additional Reading

By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.