The Pain of Pregnancy Loss

The pain and trauma of miscarriage or stillbirth appears to make it harder for couples to stay together. While such personal tragedies can bring some couples closer, pregnancy loss “appears to increase the overall risk of divorce or separation—an effect that can last for years after the pregnancy loss.”

According to a recent study, the first and largest of its kind, couples who had a miscarriage are 22% more likely to break up, and those who experienced a stillbirth are 40% more likely to do so.

These findings shouldn’t lead people to “be alarmed and assume that just because someone has had a pregnancy loss, they will also have their relationship dissolved,” says the lead author of the study, Katherine Gold, M.D., an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, in Ann Arbor. “Most couples do very well and often become closer after loss.”

Although most couples broke up within one-and-a-half to three years after losing a baby, the increased risk of divorce or separation could still be seen up to a decade after the event, especially in couples that experienced stillbirth.

“[H]ealth-care professionals, society, and friends and family need to be aware that pregnancy loss can have a profound impact on families,” she said.

Losing a pregnancy is fairly common, Dr. Gold and her colleagues note in the study, published in the journal Pediatrics. Although just 1% of pregnancies end in stillbirth, roughly 15%—more than 1 in 7—end in miscarriage, which is defined as a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks’ gestation.

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