Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst

Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst
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ISSN: 2167-1044


The Aborted Time: A Temporal View on the Trauma of Pregnancy Loss

Ortal Slobodin

Miscarriage is increasingly understood as a potential trauma. Studies revealed that many women suffer from post-traumatic symptoms long after the miscarriage, including anxiety, avoidance, re-experiencing, helplessness, shame, and guilt.

This paper explores the trauma of miscarriage from a temporal view. It is known that traumatic incidents effect and distort the normal experience of time. These changes reflect the interruption to the linear process of psychological development, but also serve to protect the individual from the unbearable consequences of the trauma. However, the association between time and trauma was never examined in the context of pregnancy loss.

The dimension of time has a unique importance in pregnancy, partly due to technological advances that affect the notion of time and the importance given today to the first three months. During the weeks of pregnancy, the mother is going through intensive mental and physical development that involves changes in fundamental life patterns. When a pregnancy is abruptly terminated, the sense of development, coherence, and continuity is compromised. The vital movement towards the future is replaced by feelings of atrophy, emptiness, and 'freezing'. Because the feelings of continuity and development were abruptly perforated, changes and distortions in time experience following pregnancy loss could be considered as indicators of traumatic occurrence.

Clinical work with women following miscarriage suggests that, similar to other traumas, miscarriage narratives contain preoccupation, changes and even distortions in time experience. For example, women may still monitor the age of the pregnancy as if it still exists; report a feeling that time has stopped moving, or feel that they went back to the beginning point, indicating that time became sterile and meaningless. These themes are illustrated by clinical examples and vignettes of women who participated in a support group for pregnancy loss.