Crying is an emotional response that many pregnant women experience at some point during their pregnancy. Hormone changes during pregnancy can make women more sensitive and prone to crying. Many women worry that their crying episodes could harm the baby and lead to miscarriage. Here is an overview of what the research says about whether crying can increase miscarriage risk.
TL;DR: The Research
There is no scientific evidence showing a direct link between crying and miscarriage. Crying does not appear to cause any physical changes in the body that could lead to pregnancy loss. As long as the crying is not accompanied by severe trauma, extreme stress, malnutrition, or dangerous behaviors like drug/alcohol abuse, there is little reason to believe crying alone threatens the pregnancy.
Can crying physically trigger miscarriage?
When considering how crying could potentially impact pregnancy, it helps to understand what happens in the body when we cry. Crying triggers the production of hormones and internal responses:
- Tears form in the eyes and spill down the cheeks
- Breathing becomes choppy or uneven
- Pulse and blood pressure may rise temporarily
- Stress hormones like cortisol increase
However, these physical effects of crying are temporary and moderate. They do not appear capable of impacting the uterine environment enough to pose a real threat. The uterus is well-protected and crying does not alter hormones enough to destabilize the pregnancy. Here is a closer look at some specific concerns:
Crying can briefly increase stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. But studies show that moderate, temporary spikes in stress hormones do not cause problems in pregnancy. Chronic, severe high stress is what’s more concerning for potentially increasing miscarriage risks.
Some women worry crying may trigger uterine contractions that could expel the pregnancy. However, mild crying does not generate nearly powerful enough contractions in the uterine muscles to impact a normal pregnancy. Contractions mainly become an issue when excessive crying is accompanied by dehydration.
A crying episode can briefly raise blood pressure. But the spike is temporary and not significant enough to cut off blood flow to the uterus in a normal pregnancy. Again, this would only be a concern in cases of severe, uncontrollable crying and emotional upset.
When someone is crying hard, their breathing can become erratic. However, mild-moderate crying does not lower oxygen levels enough to pose a threat. As soon as the crying episode subsides, normal breathing and oxygen levels are quickly restored.
What about extreme, uncontrollable crying?
While typical levels of crying do not directly impact pregnancy, extreme fits of crying may potentially contribute to miscarriage in some situations. This would likely only occur if the following conditions were met:
- The crying is severe, hysterical, and ongoing (lasting hours)
- The woman becomes severely dehydrated from extensive crying
- The woman has an underlying uterine or cervical weakness
- Other physical stressors are present – like malnutrition or substance abuse
In this scenario, the constant high stress, dehydration, and oxygen changes from uncontrollable crying could potentially interact with an already high-risk pregnancy to increase chances of miscarriage. However, even in this extreme situation, the crying would not be causing the miscarriage on its own. It would simply be one contributing factor.
Does the cause of crying matter?
Research has not found a difference in how crying impacts pregnancy based on why the woman is crying. This means that crying from physical pain, crying from emotions, crying from hormones, etc do not appear to carry different miscarriage risks. The physical act of crying itself is likely more relevant than the trigger.
However, one exception may be crying due to a severely traumatic event. For example, crying after a devastating loss, accident, assault, or disaster. In these cases, crying is accompanied by such extreme shock and stress that the body’s stress response is significantly higher.
The pregnancy risks related to this type of event have more to do with the severity of the trauma and stress hormones than the crying itself. But in this scenario, extensive, hysterical crying could exacerbate the body’s stress response.
Tips for pregnant women who cry frequently
While occasional crying is not harmful in pregnancy, some women may find themselves crying frequently due to mood disorders, emotions, or depression. Here are some tips that may help:
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water, as dehydration can trigger contractions
- Practice breathing exercises – Try yoga, meditation apps, or visualization to calm yourself
- Seek support – Talk to a doctor, counselor, or loved one for help managing emotions
- Reduce stressors – Make lifestyle adjustments to limit stress and overwhelm
- Get checked for depression – If mood is consistently low, seek help determining the cause
Frequent crying accompanied by signs of depression warrants discussion with your doctor to ensure your mental health is supported during pregnancy.
When to worry about crying in pregnancy
While routine crying is not problematic, pregnant women should contact their doctor right away if crying is accompanied by:
- Severe pain or cramping in the abdomen/pelvis
- Bleeding from the vagina
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
- Feeling lightheaded or about to pass out
- Uterine contractions every 5-20 minutes
These symptoms can indicate potential complications, so immediate medical care is recommended. Do not wait to see if symptoms resolve on their own.
In summary, research has not established a direct causal link between crying and miscarriage. While extreme, hysterical crying could theoretically contribute to miscarriage risk in some cases, routine crying is not considered harmful. Women who cry frequently should focus on self-care to stay relaxed.
Here are the key takeaways about crying and miscarriage risk:
- Moderate crying does not physically harm pregnancy
- Only severe, hysterical crying could potentially interact with other risk factors
- The trigger and cause of crying do not change the risk
- Stay hydrated and lower stress to manage frequent crying
- Call your doctor if crying is accompanied by worrying symptoms
The bottom line
Based on all available research, there is no need to worry that crying will directly cause miscarriage in an otherwise normal pregnancy. Women should feel comfortable expressing emotions during pregnancy while also taking care of their bodies and managing stress levels. Those with persistent crying or depression should speak to their doctor.