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The Lasting Trauma of Stillbirth


Davis says such women are bound to experience fears and concerns about whether the subsequent pregnancy will be successful. And they may experience what she calls "anniversary reactions" -- if the mom lost her child at a particular point in the pregnancy, she is liable to become especially fretful at that point during the subsequent pregnancy.

So when does normal worrying turn into PTSD? Davis says the anxiety associated with normal stress usually resolves in a matter of weeks. If the anxiety is prolonged beyond that, and is accompanied by intrusive thoughts and memories about the trauma, that may be an indication of PTSD.

Davis says psychotherapy can help relieve symptoms of PTSD. And some medications, such as Zoloft, have been approved for both depression and PTSD, and are believed to be safe for use during pregnancy, she says.

Shari Green, who never suffered from PTSD, appears to have resolved her grief. She is active in support groups for other moms who have lost a child to stillbirth, and she urges others to seek out every avenue of help they can, including medical or mental health care.

And, like Davis, she cautions friends of moms who have lost a child from saying what might most easily come to mind: "Don't worry, you're young -- you can have another child."

For Shari and her husband, the memory of RyLeigh is too real to be discarded so easily. Shortly after the death, they buried her at her parent's ranch in Arizona. RyLeigh would have been three on July 15. "We celebrate all her birthdays," her mother says.


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