Dealing with a miscarriage can be one of the most difficult things for a woman to go through. When you were pregnant you were full of hope and you began to imagine your future with your baby in it – envisioning yourself as a mother. Then, all of that excitement and anticipation came to an end in a painful and heartbreaking way.
A miscarriage is when your developing embryo is expelled from the uterus too soon, before it can survive outside on its own. Usually the first sign of this happening is when you experience heavy bleeding, accompanied by cramping and back pain. Depending on how far long the pregnancy was, the symptoms can last for a few days or up to three weeks.
Women who have suffered a miscarriage will experience a range of emotions. You might become depressed or withdrawn, have trouble eating or sleeping or experience anxiety. You might feel unsure about what to do next, angry and upset that it happened to you, guilty and worried that it might have been your fault and sad and hopeless in fear of it happening again.
It’s More Common Than You Think
If you have had a miscarriage, you are not alone. The spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks is more common than you think and most women who have had two or three children will have had a miscarriage at some point along the way. 20% of all pregnancies fail and more than 80% of those that do will fail in the first trimester1. You might feel devastated and that there is something wrong with you, but the truth is that this has happened to many women. Always remember that this is is not your fault.
Reach out to the women you know and perhaps they will have their own miscarriage stories to share and will understand where you are coming from. You might be surprised at how many others you know who have experienced this but never talked about it.
However, those who haven’t gone through this themselves might not understand what you are going through. They might not know what to say and they might say the wrong thing, which will feel hurtful and insensitive. Try to be patient with them, they haven’t experienced this type of loss and they don’t understand. If people are trying to help but they don’t know what to do, you can try to express what you need. However, don’t feel bad about not spending time with people who continue to say insensitive things in your time of need.
If you start to notice the symptoms of miscarriage while you are pregnant, it is important to contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor will be able to check whether or not the bleeding is originating from your cervix, as well as check on your uterus. Sometimes your doctor will also perform another blood test in order to measure your levels of pregnancy hormone.
Treatment of a Miscarriage
Treatment after a miscarriage will depend on when the miscarriage happened and what occurred. If the loss happens between 7 or 8 weeks into the pregnancy your doctor will recommend letting your body expel the placenta and fetal tissue on its own. You might experience heavy periods or strong cramping. However, if the miscarriage happened later and you didn’t experience any warning signs, such as bleeding or cramping and you found out because your ultrasound failed to detect a heartbeat – it might be necessary for the doctor to intervene2.
If you are waiting for the fetus to naturally expel, this can be psychologically difficult. It’s hard to start coming to terms with your loss while the fetus is still inside of you.
Sometimes the doctor will give you medication which will help your body to release the pregnancy tissue. Or, your doctor might suggest a suctioning of the uterus in order to remove the placental or fetal tissue. This sounds quite horrible, but it’s not as bad as you think. It can be done with local or general anesthesia and you will experience mild cramping for a day or two afterward. Also, you might experience light bleeding for up to a week. Your doctor will encourage you not to swim, exercise heavily or have sex for a few weeks until after the bleeding stops.
Letting Your Body Heal
Your body has gone through the traumatic experience of losing a baby, so be gentle on yourself and make sure that you are getting the nutrients that you need. Eat iron rich foods such as red meat, eggs, chicken and bison as well as salmon, sunflower seeds, raspberry leaf, seaweed, quinoa and Turkish apricots.
Also, you can feed yourself a lot of healthy and nourishing soups. Consider adding some astragalus root as well as other greens and vegetables, which will help you to get nutrients to your body. Avoid canned soups and opt for homemade instead, as the canned soups are higher in sodium.
Try to eat more Angelica Root, which is a warming herb that will increase your circulation and support your nervous system. It will promote relaxation, create peaceful thoughts and reduce anxiety. This herb is excellent for supporting your digestion, which will really help with miscarriage recovery. Also, you can try St. John’s Wort flower, which is a herb that will help to relieve depression and anxiety and will aid the body in uplifting the spirit. It will also help to prevent infection and it will work as an anti-inflammatory agent. Yarrow leaf is also helpful for miscarriage recovery, because it will strengthen and tighten the tissues of the reproductive organs and get the ready for your next pregnancy3.
It can also help if you make a lot of smoothies which will help to nourish your body. You can include yogurt, fruit, honey and other ingredients that will include a lot of minerals and vitamins. When you are nourishing your body you are giving it the best chance to heal.
Continue taking your prenatal vitamin and if you weren’t already taking one, start taking it now. This will help you to get the nutrients that you need for your day. The nutrients within the vitamin will help your body to repair itself for when you become pregnant again.
Whenever a loss of pregnancy occurs, you are likely to experience a lot of complicated feelings and reactions. You might be experiencing numbness and disbelief, which is a mechanism of the mind that will protect your psyche from the loss. Also, you might start to blame yourself and feel like you did something wrong to cause the miscarriage. Or, you might blame others, such as your health care provider, even if there is no reason to blame them.
It might be difficult to be around pregnant women or people with babies, as you might feel envious and it will remind you of your loss. You might find yourself triggered into sadness by random reminders when you least expect it. Many women experience depression after a miscarriage and will find themselves unable to sleep, crying constantly and struggling to function. You might have no hope for the future and might wonder if you will ever have a healthy pregnancy.
Remember that the grief you are feeling is real and that these are normal reactions. No matter how early it was in the pregnancy, you will feel that loss deeply. It is your right to grieve as much as you need to. There is no right way to feel and every woman who has experienced a miscarriage will experience it in a different way.
Also, it is important to remember that your body has just gone through a huge change from being pregnant to being not pregnant, which means that there have been a lot of hormones coursing through your system that will affect your brain chemistry. These hormones can affect anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. It is difficult to process grief while also having a vulnerable brain chemistry and this makes the healing process much harder for many women.
Feelings of Guilt
Many women feel strong feelings of guilt after they have had a miscarriage, as they fear that they did something wrong to cause the pregnancy to fail. You might be worried that you ate the wrong thing, exercised too hard, didn’t take enough vitamins or something else. However, stop punishing yourself because the miscarriage wasn’t your fault.
There is very little about losing a pregnancy that you are in control of. Biology takes over and there is not very much that you can do. Treat yourself with kindness and don’t torture yourself about what you did or didn’t do.
Keep in mind that although you should turn to your partner for support, he is also grieving the loss of a baby so he might be showing his grief in a different way. Be gentle with each other and share your feelings together, so that you can heal. Grieving a miscarriage is a very different experience for the mother than it is for the father. You were the one who felt the baby growing inside of you and you will feel that physical loss more than your partner.
Having a small funeral ceremony for your unborn child can be a way to find closure. Also, many women find comfort in support groups online or by talking with a friend. You might also want to ask your healthcare provider to recommend a therapist who can offer you bereavement counseling.
If you feel that your grief isn’t shifting or moving, there might be an element of clinical depression or anxiety to your suffering that needs to be addressed. A healthy grief will eventually move on, but sometimes it will deepen into a dark depression that will include self-doubt, shame and guilt. If you are experiencing these feelings and they are not changing after a long time, it is important to seek the help of a therapist.
Many women who lose babies become suddenly anxious about losing everything else. You might feel an irrational feel of losing your partner, your close relationships, or even your sanity. You might feel like you need to grab tightly onto other things in your life as you fear you might lose them too, which can lead to very unhealthy behaviours.
Most of all, remember to give yourself time and accept that you will never forget the pregnancy that you lost. You may always feel sad on the anniversary of the miscarriage or around the due date of your lost baby, even many years from now. It’s normal to go through a grieving period and you will come to terms with it in your own way.
How Long to Wait Before Trying Again
So, after you have lost your baby through a miscarriage… how long should you wait until you try conceiving a baby again? The truth is that your body will recover quite quickly and you will be physically ready after you go through your next menstrual cycle. However, just because you are physically ready to start trying to conceive again, it doesn’t mean that you will be emotionally ready – the emotional healing will usually take longer than the physical healing.
You might still feel depressed, anxious and vulnerable and you might be scared that you will completely fall apart if it happens again. Being stressed out and anxious will have a negative effect on your ability to conceive and the health of your pregnancy, so it is important to make sure that you are in a healthy place mentally before you start again.
Take your time healing, rely on the support of your community and friends and take care of yourself. When you are ready to try again, you will know. You’ll be able to go into your next attempt to conceive with a solid and grounded mindset knowing that no matter what happens you will be okay.
- BabyCenter. Miscarriage: Signs, causes, and treatment. http://www.babycenter.com/0_miscarriage-signs-causes-and-treatment_252.bc (Accessed May 2016) ↩
- Parenting. Healing After Miscarriage. http://www.parenting.com/article/healing-after-miscarriage (Accessed May 2016) ↩
- Natural Fertility Info. After Miscarriage: 5 Steps To Recovery. http://natural-fertility-info.com/after-miscarriage-recovery.html (Accessed MAy 2016) ↩