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Can stress cause a miscarriage, as Harry says he believes the Mail's to blame for Meghan's?

  • Prince Harry said he believes wife Meghan Markle suffered a miscarriage in July 2020 'because of what the Mail did'

  • The Duke of Sussex made the claim in episode six of his docuseries, Harry & Meghan, which dropped on Netflix yesterday

  • Harry elaborated further, saying that "of course we don’t" know that the miscarriage was caused "for certain" by the Mail, but added: "Bearing in mind the stress, the lack of sleep and the timing of the pregnancy how many weeks in she was, I can say, from what I saw, that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her"

  • Read on to find out whether stress can cause a miscarriage and where to find support during pregnancy

Stock picture of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who have discussed her miscarriage in 2020. (Getty Images)
Prince Harry believes stress was a contributing factor to Meghan's miscarriage. (Getty Images)

Prince Harry has discussed the miscarriage his wife Meghan Markle experienced in July 2020, saying he believes the stress his wife was under at the time was to blame.

While talking about the experience in the final episode of Netflix series Harry & Meghan, the royal said he believed the weight of an ongoing legal battle with Associated Newspapers was a contributing factor to the pregnancy loss.

Read more: How old was Meghan when she had Archie, following birth fears in Netflix docuseries?

"I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what the Mail did," Harry said. "I watched the whole thing.

"Now do we absolutely know the miscarriage was caused by that? Of course we don’t, but bearing in mind the stress, the lack of sleep and the timing of the pregnancy how many weeks in she was, I can say, from what I saw, that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her.”

Watch: Meghan Markle reveals why she decided to share her miscarriage experience publicly

Can stress cause a miscarriage?

According to baby loss charity, Tommy's, stress is not linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.

"There is some evidence that suggests that stress, depression and anxiety in pregnancy may sometimes cause issues for the baby during their life, such as emotional problems," guidance on the Tommy's website explains. "However, this is unlikely, especially if you get the right treatment and support during pregnancy."

Professor Siobhan Quenby, director at Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research explains that there is still much we don't know about miscarriage.

“Sadly one in five pregnancies will end in miscarriage, devastating families," she tells Yahoo UK. "When Meghan and Harry shared their own experience, families across the country will recognise that pain. Evidence shows women who experience miscarriage are at a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health problems, which is why families need specialist care and support after pregnancy loss.

"Harry and Meghan talked about the impact of stress in their lives on Meghan’s miscarriage. Research from Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research in The Lancet, shows a link between some factors, including persistent high stress, and increased risk of miscarriage.

"However, we need to do more research to understand whether this is a causal link, because stress is often linked with other lifestyle factors which also increase miscarriage risk like lack of sleep and not eating well.”

Ruth Bender Atik, National Director at The Miscarriage Association says that while a number of research studies point to a link between stress and miscarriage, there is no evidence that stress on its own is a direct cause of miscarriage.

"Even research that shows that sustained workplace stress (very demanding work, long hours etc) is linked to an increased incidence of miscarriage doesn’t say that the stress itself is a direct cause," she explains.

Read more: What Beyoncé said in her text to Meghan following Oprah interview

Is there a link between miscarriage and stress, as Prince Harry seems to suggest? (Getty Images)
Is there a link between miscarriage and stress, as Prince Harry seems to suggest? (Getty Images)

According to Bender Atik there are some other key factors to consider while exploring the topic of stress and miscarriage, including the self-reflection many women will often do after experiencing a pregnancy loss, which can risk something known as "recall bias".

"After a miscarriage, most people will ask themselves what caused it, why it happened," she explains. "Unfortunately, very few people will have an obvious cause diagnosed, and in that situation, we tend to seek our own explanation: what we did or didn’t do (diet, lifting heavy things, phone masts, flying, not really wanting the pregnancy) and stress is one of those."

Understandably, most women who are pregnant after a miscarriage will have very high levels of anxiety, fearing that it will happen again – and they worry about the effects of that anxiety too, which leads to something of a "double burden".

"Again, there is no evidence that this increases the risk of another miscarriage," Bender Atik explains. "Even amongst people with recurrent pregnancy loss, very well documented guidance indicates that there is no evidence of a clear causal link between stress and miscarriage," she adds.

And in one study, authors note the link might in fact be the other way round – that miscarriage is the cause of stress.

"Above all, people need to understand that most miscarriages happen because of a random chromosome anomaly, where something goes wrong in the very early stages of development, and where the problem might lie in the sperm cell, not only the egg cell," Bender Atik adds.

Read more: Harry reveals Archie's like Meghan and Lilibet resembles Diana: 'Very Spencer-like'

How to stay calm during pregnancy

Midwife Pip, a practicing midwife and podcaster, says it is perfectly understandable that many women may feel concerned about a perceived link between miscarriage and stress.

"Pregnancy marks a time of huge hormonal, physical and psychological change for women, and it is very common to be concerned about the risk of miscarriage especially in the first trimester when we know the statistics are higher," she explains.

"It is reassuring to know that there is no link between stress and miscarriage. However, your mental wellbeing in pregnancy is very important and it is paramount to consider your mental health as an equal to your physical health during this time," she adds.

Thankfully, there are some helpful, practical things we can do to help self-manage stress during pregnancy and to keep ourselves calmer and more relaxed.

  • Be kind to yourself - know that your body is doing very detailed, important work during pregnancy and it is fine to relax and unwind when needed. Take off some of the pressures where you can, be accepting of help and ask for it where needed whether it is from friends and family or healthcare professionals.

  • Supercharge your nutrition - our gut and brain are very well connected, eating a balanced and nourishing diet and avoiding stimulates like caffeine and sugar can help support our mental wellbeing.

  • Move your body - getting some physical activity in, be it a class you enjoy, going for a walk or even dancing in the kitchen. Moving your body releases endorphins which are important for boosting our mood. If you can get a daily dose of fresh air this is also a fantastic way to improve your psychological wellbeing.

  • Talking and journaling - speaking to people you trust and or writing down your concerns and feelings can really help you to manage them. Try doing some relaxing breathwork and relaxations too. It is great practice for labour and contractions!

Where to find support

If you've experienced pregnancy loss, support is available from hospital counselling services. Numerous charities also have helplines offering support:

  • The Miscarriage Association: Provides help and information to anyone affected by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy. 01924 200 799, Monday-Friday 9am-4pm. It also has an online chat service and support groups

  • Tommy’s: provides pregnancy health information to parents. 0800 0147 800, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

  • Petals – The Baby Loss Counselling Charity: 0300 688 0068. Counselling is free but calls are charged at the local rate.

  • Cruse Bereavement Care helps people understand their grief and cope with their loss. They have a helpline (0808 808 1677) and a network of local branches where you can find support.

  • Sands UK: For information and support you can also visit the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, Sands UK.