One-third of women feel distant from partner post-miscarriage

October 06, 2003

One year after miscarrying, two-thirds of women say their relationships with their husbands or partners stayed the same or improved, according to a recent study. The remaining third said their relationships grew more distant over the same time span.

"It seems that when miscarriage affects couples, it may stimulate growth or, conversely, unearth inability to support each other through troubling times," says Kristen M. Swanson, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., professor of family and child nursing at the University of Washington. Swanson and colleagues interviewed 185 women four times over the course of the year following their miscarriages, asking open-ended questions about how the event affected their interpersonal and sexual relationships with their mates.

The study appears in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Some background factors appeared to help couples adjust to this loss. Swanson reports that compared with those who felt closer, women whose interpersonal or sexual relationships remained the same were more likely to have already had children prior to the miscarriage, Swanson reports. They were also more likely to have miscarried at an earlier gestational age than those who felt more distant in these relationships.

However, one year after the miscarriage, 32 percent of women interviewed said their interpersonal relationships were more distant than before. Thirty-nine percent said their sexual relationships were more distant.

Distance in both kinds of relationships was associated with increased emotional disturbance, including more depressed, anxious, confused and angry moods, she says. Women who felt this distance tended to see their miscarriage as a significant loss, recall, recall the actual miscarriage as a devastating event, claim they had "lost a baby," and feel more isolated.

"Those whose interpersonal relationship was more distant feared trying [to get pregnant] again, were unable to share the loss with their partners and experienced more tension, and less love, communication, and support with and from their mates," Swanson says. "Women who were sexually more distant avoided intercourse, experienced less desire and saw sex as a functional necessity, a fearful reminder of loss and a source of tension."

Almost all of the couples were heterosexual, and more than 90 percent were married, Swanson says. The researchers did not interview the partners of the women who miscarried.

"When women felt that their male partners failed to do things to show they cared, women perceived greater distance in their relationships," Swanson says. "However, when women perceived that their partners engaged in mutual sharing of feelings and experiences, they claimed to be closer interpersonally and sexually."
-end-
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Nursing Research and the University of Washington School of Nursing Center for Women's Health Research.

BY AARON LEVIN, SCIENCE WRITER
HEALTH BEHAVIOR NEWS SERVICE

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or www.hbns.org.
Interviews: Contact Pam Sowers, Media Relations Coordinator at (206) 543-3620 or
sowerspl@u.washington.edu.
Psychosomatic Medicine: Contact Victoria White at (352) 376-1611, ext. 5300, or
psychosomatic@medicine.ufl.edu. Online, visit www.psychosomaticmedicine.org.

Center for Advancing Health

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