Pregnancy Loss Strains Relationships, Greater Risk for Divorce
Like many, my own miscarriage ten years ago had no known cause. My physician told me that it probably occurs in about one out of every four pregnancies, although more recent research estimates that it occurs in more than one in seven. The grief from the loss can strain even the best of relationships, and a new study from the University of Michigan Medical School has found that couples who experience miscarriage are 22% more likely to break up.
Those that experience stillbirth are at an even greater risk – couples were 40% more likely to divorce or separate after the tragedy.
Miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks of gestation, and stillbirth is a loss of a fetus after this time.
Dr. Katherine Gold, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at U-M, and colleagues published their findings in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics. After following 7,700 pregnant couples for 15 years, they found that most couples who ended up in divorce after pregnancy loss did so after about one-and-a-half to three years after the event; however the risk seemed to remain elevated even up to a decade later, particularly in parents that had lost a child due to stillbirth.
While trauma and tragedy bring some couples closer together, those who are already in unstable relationships may be more apt to find their relationship dissolve after the loss of a child, according to Louis Gamino, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M College of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.
Couples in the U-M study were more likely to split if they were living together instead of married, if the mother was young, and if the relationship was less than one year old. Even after taking these factors into account, other factors likely still contributed to the greater risk of divorce or separation, including depression and grief. Because men and women tend to grieve differently, a gap in understanding for the other partner may occur which can lead to a breakdown of the relationship.