Sex Roles

, Volume 76, Issue 5–6, pp 380–392 | Cite as

Disrupted Transition to Parenthood: Gender Moderates the Association Between Miscarriage and Uncertainty About Conception

  • S. Katherine NelsonEmail author
  • Megan L. Robbins
  • Sara E. Andrews
  • Kate Sweeny
Original Article


Miscarriage is a devastating yet common experience shared by women and their partners. Doctors often recommend that couples attempt to conceive again after the experience of a miscarriage, yet little is known about the emotional toll of conception following miscarriage. In the current study, we addressed two primary research questions: (a) How does experiencing a miscarriage relate to recalled emotional experiences of uncertainty surrounding efforts to conceive again? and (b) does gender moderate the association between miscarriage and retrospective accounts of emotions surrounding efforts to conceive? An online sample of parents from across the U.S. (N = 429; 84.4 % married or cohabiting) reported their number of prior miscarriages and completed online questionnaires assessing recalled psychological adjustment (anxiety, rumination, positive and negative emotions) during their efforts to conceive their youngest child. In addition, they provided written responses regarding their experiences during this time. Participants’ responses were quantitatively analyzed for word use using LIWC, a text-analysis software program, to obtain an observational indicator of emotions. For women but not men, miscarriage was associated with recalled anxiety, rumination, and negative emotions surrounding efforts to conceive a child, as well as the use of more negative emotion, sadness, and anxiety words when describing efforts to conceive. Thus, miscarriage seemed to taint the emotional experience of trying to conceive again, and this consequence seemed particularly poignant for women.


Gender Pregnancy Fertility Miscarriage Distress Emotion Uncertainty 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

We have no potential conflicts of interest

Informed Consent

All participants provided informed consent prior to answering any questions. As part of the informed consent procedure, participants were informed that they would be answering questions about their experiences and emotions during their most recent pregnancy and that they had the option to discontinue their participation at any time.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Katherine Nelson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Megan L. Robbins
    • 2
  • Sara E. Andrews
    • 2
  • Kate Sweeny
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySewanee: The University of the SouthSewaneeUSA
  2. 2.University of California, RiversideRiversideUSA

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