Grief, Traumatic Stress, and Posttraumatic Growth in Women Who Have Experienced Pregnancy Loss
Objective: Pregnancy loss is common and can be devastating for those who experience it. However, a historical focus on negative outcomes, and grief in particular, has rendered an incomplete portrait of both the gravity of the loss, and the potential for growth in its wake. Consistent with contemporary models of growth following bereavement, this study explored the occurrence of posttraumatic growth following pregnancy loss and further assessed the role of core belief disruptions and common loss context factors across perinatal grief, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and posttraumatic growth. Method: Women who had experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth (N = 328) were recruited through perinatal loss support groups and completed an online survey that assessed core belief disruption, perinatal grief, posttraumatic stress symptoms, posttraumatic growth, loss context factors, and demographics. Hypotheses were tested via hierarchical multiple regression. Results: All hypotheses were supported. Specifically, (a) moderate levels of posttraumatic growth were reported; (b) core belief disruptions predicted perinatal grief, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and posttraumatic growth; and (c) perinatal grief predicted posttraumatic stress symptoms and growth. Conclusion: Findings suggest that pregnancy loss can be a traumatic event, that core belief disruptions play a significant role in posttrauma outcomes, and that other factors may contribute to grief, posttraumatic stress symptoms, and posttraumatic growth following pregnancy loss that warrant further research (e.g., rumination). Despite potential methodological and sampling limitations, the use of validated measures to assess posttraumatic growth in a large sample represents a robust attempt to quantify the occurrence of posttrauma change following pregnancy loss.