Trigger warning: This post deals with sensitive subjects such as miscarriage and pregnancy loss. If you or someone you know has been impacted by issues raised in this story, help is always available. Please call the SANDS 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637 or visit their website here.
Miscarriage is very common in the early weeks of pregnancy. In Australia, approximately 1 in 5 women (who know they are pregnant) will have a miscarriage prior to 20 weeks. However, the actual rates are much higher as many women will experience a miscarriage without knowing it.
However, despite being very common, miscarriage is still something that is not always openly talked about. Miscarriage is an extremely sad and upsetting time and many parents often feel like they have to suffer with their grief in silence.
For the mother, there are also the physical side-effects of miscarriage that they must try and navigate. So here are some ways to help you cope with miscarriage, come to terms with loss and to navigate pregnancy after miscarriage.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of your baby before 20 weeks, a loss after this point is called a stillbirth.
The most common signs of a miscarriage include cramping and bleeding, however, some mild cramping and bleeding can be common in the early stages of pregnancy. So it is important to speak with your doctor or if the cramping or bleeding is severe you should go to the emergency room.
Women will often feel as though a miscarriage was caused by something they did – or didn’t do. However, most of the time the miscarriage is caused by a spontaneous chromosomal abnormality.
How to cope with miscarriage
When you experience a miscarriage it is important to be aware that there is a small chance you may see your baby’s embryo in the tissue that passes from your body. In many cases, it is too small to see or unrecognisable, however, this can be very distressing for some mothers. Others may find comfort in seeing their baby.
If you are in hospital and you would like to see your baby, you can speak with your doctor or midwife and they will help you with this process. They will also help you through your options for what you would like to do with your baby.
There is no correct way to handle this process and you should do what feels right for you.
Coping with grief over your miscarriage
Coping with miscarriage is a deeply personal experience and every mother will cope differently. Once the physical symptoms have passed many women will feel a deep emotional wave as they process the enormity of what has happened to their body – and grieve the loss of their baby and the life they had imagined.
There is no right or wrong way to process the feelings of a miscarriage.
- Emptiness or feeling ‘numb’
- Frustration and irritability
- Guilt and self-blame
- Jealousy (seeing pregnant women or babies)
There is often a deep sense of anger and confusion over having no control over their own body and feeling as though it has betrayed them. It is also common to worry it was something they did to cause the loss to occur.
The grief can also often result in other symptoms such as:
- Nausea or ‘sick’ feelings in the stomach
- Loss of appetite
- Low energy levels
- An aching that is described as both physical and emotional.
Tips to cope with miscarriage grief
1. Allow yourself time to recover
It’s important to note that for a few weeks after a miscarriage your body is still experiencing heightened hormone levels and this will affect your body and emotions as they regulate.
So allowing yourself time to recover from the miscarriage both physically and emotionally is key. Speak with your manager and take the time you need away from work and get your partner or a friend or family member to care for other children or take other responsibilities off your plate so you can focus on your healing.
2. Acknowledge your loss
No matter what stage your pregnancy was at, it’s important to allow yourself the space to grieve your baby and your loss. There is no right amount of grief you “should” feel, this will be different for everyone.
Talk with your partner or a friend (often someone who has experienced a similar loss can be a huge support and help you feel less alone). You could also look at joining a support group or if you feel you need further support, speaking with a professional can be a huge relief.
Honour your baby
Many couples find comfort in honouring their baby in some way, depending on how far along it was you may choose to have a memorial or burial service or perhaps a grieving ceremony with some of your loved ones present.
Other ways to honour your baby might include planting a tree, lighting a candle, buying a piece of jewellery that you can engrave and wear in their memory, writing in a journal or making a scrapbook.
Tips for partners and fathers to cope with miscarriage
Miscarriage can often leave partners and fathers feeling a sense of helplessness alongside their own feelings of loss and grief. While the mother experiences physical pain and has to endure the act of miscarrying or undergoing surgery, the partner can feel like it is not their place to be upset.
Partners will all process this grief differently. However often male partners will go into “practical mode” suppressing their emotions and appearing as though their grief is less. Often men will instead focus on trying to support their partner and may not want to talk about the loss as much – so as not to make their partner more upset. Here are 7 things you can say (and do) to support your partner through their loss.
Partners can still take a practical approach by taking on more around the house. But it is also extremely important for the relationship and each individual’s healing when a couple can open up and share their feelings about the loss and what it meant to them. Open and honest communication and acknowledging the loss and the feelings are what will lead to healing and growth within the relationship.
How to cope with pregnancy after miscarriage
Unless your doctor has advised you otherwise, it is generally recommended to wait for at least one menstrual cycle before trying to conceive. But emotionally there is no right or wrong timeframe to start trying again.
Physically, your fertility will resume almost immediately, however, if you fall pregnant straight after having a miscarriage, the risk that you will miscarry again is slightly higher which is why doctors usually recommend waiting.
If you have had three miscarriages, your doctor also might recommend that you meet with a fertility specialist.
Emotionally you might not be ready to face another pregnancy so soon, and that’s ok. If this is the case you might want to think about using contraception until you are ready.
It is very common to experience fears around suffering another pregnancy loss so it can be helpful to speak with others who have gone on to have babies after loss, join a support group or speak with your doctor or a professional.
The grief of losing a child is something that you will never truly overcome but taking care of yourself and giving yourself the time you need to come to terms with the loss is so important for your healing. In time you will feel ready to move forward in a way that both honours your baby’s memory and also allows you to feel like you again.
If you or someone you know has been impacted by issues raised in this story, help is always available. Please call the SANDS 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637 or visit their website here.