The tragedy of miscarriage leaves people mourning for years. Many of them may experience an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, which can affect the rest of their lives. It is something that can be extremely difficult to come back from.
Miscarriage happens when an embryo or fetus is expelled from the uterus before 20 weeks gestation. Women usually experience heavy bleeding accompanied by abdominal or back pain and cramping. While the physical pain may last for only a few weeks, its emotional and psychological impact lasts a lifetime. It is also not an uncommon occurrence. A report from the American Pregnancy Association indicates that 10% to 25% of confirmed pregnancies will end in miscarriage. About 80% of these will occur during the first trimester.
According to VeryWell Family, a modern resource that offers a realistic and friendly approach to pregnancy and parenting, most first-time miscarriages are random and do not recur. The odds of miscarrying in a woman’s next pregnancy after a past miscarriage are about 20%. This figure is not much higher than someone without a history of miscarriage. Women who have gone through this report being sad and disheartened over the loss and angry and resentful that it happened to them.
Janet Jaffe, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego, said that the impact of miscarriage on a couple is often underestimated. "But miscarriage is a traumatic loss, not only of the pregnancy but of a woman's sense of self and her hopes and dreams of the future. She has lost her ‘reproductive story,' and it needs to be grieved,” she said.
After a Miscarriage
Emma Robertson Blackmore, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said that a woman who has a miscarriage is at risk for anxiety and depression. They may also suffer from postpartum depression even after having a healthy child. A 2011 study revealed that 15% of the 2,823 women who experienced miscarriages experienced clinically significant depression and/or anxiety during and after pregnancies for up to three years.
The American Psychological Association (APA) said that mothers may also struggle to manage the needs of their other child/children after a loss. To prove this, researchers Sherryl S. Heller and Charles H. Zeanah looked at mothers who had delivered a child within nine months after a perinatal loss and assessed their mother-child attachment relationships. The findings showed that 45% of the infants had disorganized attachments to their mothers.
Experts said that some women may feel that their bodies are a traumatic site after a miscarriage. A 2019 study, for instance, revealed that nearly a third of women who experienced early pregnancy loss met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder one month later. Nine months later, around 18% met the criteria. Prof. Blackmore said that miscarriages also have psychological implications for future children.
"This raises the important issue of how and whether previous perinatal loss and associated mood symptoms may alter a child's outcome," she said.
It’s also important to acknowledge the partner’s feelings. Miscarriage does affect men. In a book titled “Helping Men with the Trauma of Miscarriage,” the author found out that the fathers' sadness and grief were largely dismissed by others. Often, men mask their grief over a miscarriage as anger. A survey commissioned by the Miscarriage Association revealed that 46% of 160 partners said that they kept their feelings hidden from their once-pregnant partner. They feared that they may cause additional stress to their partner.
Pregnancy loss among lesbian relationships can also be devastating. Danuta M. Wojnar, RN, Ph.D., an assistant professor and chair at Seattle University, found out that the non-pregnant partner has a similar response to a man following the miscarriage. "The response tends to be, ‘I lost her and I don't know how to get her back,'" she said.
While a miscarriage can turn a woman’s life upside down, there are several ways to confront grief and move forward from it. Experts say that it’s always better to have a solid support group, which may consist of a woman’s partner, family, and close friends.
1 – Practice self-care
One of the things women who suffered a miscarriage need to remember is to take care of themselves. While this is extremely hard, it’s important for your fast recovery. Hydration, good nutrition, light exercise, and sleep will help the body heal. Women can consider trying a new physical activity that allows them to release or express their emotions.
According to Good Therapy, a resource for professionals and individuals looking for mental health referrals and information, doing some self-care activities can increase women’s motivation to do a lot of things. This includes moving forward. By exercising and keeping your body healthy, you’ll feel more capable of dealing with your emotions. Experts say that exercise can also increase your levels of endorphins, which can elevate your mood.
2 – Talk about it
Some women tend to not talk about their loss, which is understandable because it’s extremely hard to confront pain. However, talking about their experience and emotions is important because it is part of the healing process. It’s been proven that expressing yourself verbally can greatly help in coping.
Talking about the miscarriage also acknowledges the fact that the pregnancy existed. Recognizing the baby existed can help partners move forward. “You can’t say goodbye to something you never had. So, acknowledging that the pregnancy was there [is important],” Nancy Jo Reedy, a women’s health nurse practitioner, said.
3 – Take the time and space to recover
Healing is a long process. Each individual’s timeline is different; thus, some may heal more slowly or quickly than others. It’s important to not rush yourself and have compassion for your healing. Whether it may take months or years, moving forward from this tragedy will be the most vital part of the process.
4 – Reach out to a mental health provider
Seeking professional help is also important. Health professionals can help you assess your grief, give proper medications, and provide therapy. They can be helpful in sorting through the complicated emotions and grief that may accompany a pregnancy loss. The sooner you can get help, the better. On that same note, it is never too late to get help.