Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences - Theses

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    Psychological outcomes of those experiencing early pregnancy loss
    Bendavid, Jessie ( 2019)
    Early Pregnancy Loss (EPL), a loss occurring before 14 weeks gestation, is a relatively common event, occurring in about 20% of pregnancies. Although many women and their partners do not experience psychological difficulties associated with this loss, a significant minority experience intense and sustained grief, depression and anxiety symptoms. Reliable prevalence rates of serious psychological consequences for women are not well established, and those of partners are largely unknown. Furthermore, it is unclear what factors increase the risk for developing serious psychological symptoms. A range of potential risk factors have been identified, but remain under-researched and have not been rigorously studied. According to Cognitive Behavioural Theory, it is possible that cognitions surrounding the loss may be a particularly relevant risk factor. Yet this topic has rarely been examined and the studies that have are characterised by major methodological shortcomings. Importantly, partners are rarely included in these studies. This study aimed to determine prevalence rates for grief depression and anxiety over the first three and a half months after EPL. It also investigated cognitions after EPL through the Common-Sense Model of Illness Representation, and their link with grief, depression and anxiety symptoms. This study included 28 male partners and 68 women diagnosed with EPL who attended the Early Pregnancy Assessment Service at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. Participants completed self-report measures two weeks (T1), and three months (T2) post-loss. These included the Perinatal Grief Scale, the Centre for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale, the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Illness Perception Questionnaire-Revised. Results showed that the prevalence of grief, depression and anxiety symptoms for women at T1 were 20.6%, 54.4%, and 52.9%, respectively. For partners, the prevalence rates were 0% for grief, 32.1% for depression, and 25% for anxiety. These rates decreased by T2. Illness perceptions were found to significantly predict grief, depression and anxiety. Unexpectedly, it was often better perceptions of the loss that predicted worse psychological outcomes. These findings provide new information about the experience of EPL and suggest that critical timing for assessment and treatment would be within the first 3 months after EPL. Treatment options, particularly in terms of grief theories presented in the introduction, are discussed. Considering the surprising results and that this is the first study to examine illness perceptions among this sample, replication of these results is needed.