The mental health impact of perinatal loss: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Danielle Herbert, Kerry Young, Maria Pietrusińska, Angus MacBeth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Perinatal loss can pose a significant risk to maternal mental health. There is limited data on the strength of association between perinatal loss and subsequent common mental health disorders (CMHD) such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic symptoms (PTS). A systematic review and meta-analysis identified studies with control groups, published between January 1995 and March 2020 reporting validated mental health outcomes following perinatal loss. We identified 29 studies from 17 countries, representing a perinatal loss sample (n = 31,072) and a control group of women not experiencing loss (n = 1,261,517). We compared the likelihood of increased CMHD in both groups. Random-effects modelling on suggested that compared to controls, perinatal loss was associated with increased risk of depressive (RR = 2.14, 95% CI = 1.73–2.66, p < 0.001, k = 22) and anxiety disorders (RR = 1.75, 95% CI = 1.27–2.42, p < 0.001, k = 9). Compared to controls, Perinatal loss was also associated with increased depression (SMD = 0.34, 95% CI = 0.20–0.48, p < 0.001, k = 12) and anxiety scores (SMD = 0.35, 95% CI = 0.12–0.58, p < 0.003, k = 10). There were no significant effects for post-traumatic stress (PTS) outcomes (k = 3). Our findings confirm that anxiety and depression levels following perinatal loss are significantly elevated compared to “no loss” controls (live-births, non pregnant from community, or difficult live births). Elevated depression and anxiety rates were also reported for those who experienced loss during later stages of pregnancy. Assessing mental health following loss is a maternal health priority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-129
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of affective disorders
Early online date20 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • mental health
  • miscarriage
  • perinatal loss
  • stillbirth


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