Well & Good
Many men suffer emotionally when their partner loses a pregnancy, but women are more likely to be affected for longer, new research suggests.
Not too long ago, experts thought that a man didn't bond with his unborn child, and that miscarriages didn't affect men.
While several investigators have since reported that men also report feelings of loss, sadness, and helplessness, it's not clear how severe their distress is, or how long it lasts.
To investigate, Dr. Grace Kong of Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong and colleagues followed 83 couples for one year after a miscarriage.
They used two tests to gauge levels of psychological distress in both men and women: the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). None of the study participants had a history of mental illness.
Immediately after the miscarriage occurred, the researchers found, more than 40 per cent of the men were suffering significant psychological distress, as measured by the GHQ-12.
By three months, however, just 7 per cent reported this level of distress, and at one year, 5 per cent of the men did.
But among the women, 52 per cent had significant distress immediately after miscarriage, over 20 per cent did three months later, 14 per cent did at six months, and 8 per cent reported distress one year later.
Findings were similar with the BDI: immediately after the miscarriage, 26 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men had high levels of depression; three months later, 12 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men were depressed. One year later, 10 per cent of women and 7 per cent of men still had significant depressive symptoms.
Women in more troubled marriages were more likely to be depressed after miscarrying, as were those who had seen the fetal heartbeat on ultrasound before losing the pregnancy.
But the only factor that independently predicted whether or not a man would become depressed was whether the pregnancy had been planned. A planned pregnancy was a significant risk factor for high levels of depression soon after the event.
The study also found that men were more likely to be optimistic about the possibility of future pregnancies than women were; this may have had something to do with their lower levels of emotional distress, the researchers say.
The results, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, suggest that the psychological impact of miscarriage on men is "less intense and enduring" than on women, the researchers note.
Because both partners were most distressed immediately after miscarriage, Kong and her team say any interventions to help these couples should occur soon after the pregnancy loss.
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