About 31% of pregnancies confirmed after implantation end in miscarriage. That translates to roughly one of every three pregnancies.
With this in mind, no two women experience miscarriage in exactly the same way. We have worked with women who share that they expected sadness but never experienced it, and that’s okay. We’ve also worked with women who experience overwhelming grief after miscarriage, and that’s also okay. We’ve worked with men who sit anywhere on the spectrum as well – some don’t mourn while others need support services in order to cope with their grief.
There is no right or wrong way to feel after the demise of a pregnancy and no single path to healing. If you’ve had a miscarriage and find yourself struggling with recovery, there are resources to help you and your partner through the physical and emotional pain you’re experiencing.
Emotional Healing After Miscarriage
Emotional healing after miscarriage is a broad concept. There are many kinds of feelings that follow miscarriage and different kinds of healing depending on a wide variety of factors.
Many women experience what we consider appropriate sadness after a miscarriage. The term is broad, but generally speaking, these women are mourning the loss of a pregnancy and the plans they had for the future life that will not be. They’re able to cope and work through their grief with appropriate resources and generally don’t experience major behavioral changes or problems as a result. Although you may never stop grieving the loss, the sadness and anxiety that comes with it typically diminish by about a year after your miscarriage.
In other cases, miscarriage can impact a woman’s relationship with her body. While pregnancy often inspires women to care for their bodies in a renewed way, miscarriage can have the opposite effect, making it difficult to reconnect with your body and learn to love and trust it again.
About one-third of all women who go through a miscarriage meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis a month after the loss; 18% will still meet those criteria 18 months later. For these women, their bodies often become a traumatic site or trigger, making it difficult to escape the challenging thoughts and feelings they’re experiencing. Depression and anxiety can follow.
It might seem surprising, but it’s very common for men and women who face an unexpected and even unwanted pregnancy to mourn after learning they’ve miscarried.
There are several steps you can take to help facilitate emotional healing after your loss.
Acknowledge the pregnancy. Because many couples don’t announce a pregnancy until the second trimester, it can be exceptionally challenging to grieve the loss of a pregnancy in the first trimester. If it was never announced, it can be hard to “break the ice” with friends and family members when it comes time to share the loss. However, sharing the pregnancy and loss can help you build a support group and acknowledge the pregnancy.
Remember the baby. Naming the baby or honoring the baby through a memorial service – which can be done alone at home or or more formally with friends or family – can help.
Join a local or online support group. It’s common to feel alone or like nobody understands after a miscarriage. Many men and women don’t share their feelings with others for many reasons: unsolicited advice often follows, they don’t want to be the center of attention, they feel a sense of privacy about their loss, or their support system isn’t comfortable with a great deal of emotion, for example. Joining a support group can help you connect with others in a safe space who have experienced a miscarriage.
Know the facts. Keep in mind that a miscarriage isn’t an indication of infertility or inability to carry to term. The vast majority of women (85%) go on to have healthy pregnancies after a miscarriage. Additionally, many women become pregnant soon after a miscarriage while still honoring and grieving the loss, so becoming pregnant again doesn’t bring your grief to a halt prematurely.
Seek out help from a mental health provider. PTSD, depression, anxiety, and body image issues can be hard to navigate alone. Getting help from a mental health provider, like a counselor or therapist, is often a critical step in your healing journey.
Physical Healing After Miscarriage
While you’re grappling with the emotions that often follow a miscarriage, your body also needs to heal. Both physical and hormonal changes can serve as a reminder of what you’ve gone through and require extra attention during the next several weeks or months.
Following an early pregnancy loss, expect strong cramping and bleeding that mimics a heavy period. Know that it may take 4-6 weeks for your period to return after your miscarriage. During this time, care for your emotional health, drink plenty of water, take the vitamins recommended by your provider, and get enough rest if possible. Call your OBGYN if you have bleeding that soaks through more than two pads an hour, severe cramping that lasts more than two weeks, high fever, or odorous vaginal discharge.
When fetal demise occurs later in pregnancy, recovery can mimic the recovery that follows pregnancy and delivery. Following a stillbirth, you can expect cramping, large blood clots, breast engorgement, and hormonal changes. Follow your doctor’s orders as you recover and make self-care a priority: nourish your body with nutritious food, water, and plenty of rest. If you experience a high fever, pain that is getting worse instead of better, bleeding that is becoming heavier instead of lighter, or odorous vaginal discharge, see your OBGYN right away.
Help for Healing After Miscarriage
Remember, if the pregnancy was unexpected or unwanted, you might still experience difficult thoughts and feelings as you recover.
To learn more about early pregnancy, unexpected pregnancy, or recovering after miscarriage, visit Willowbrook Women’s Center. Our compassionate team offers a wide variety of services to support in Cameron and St. Joseph, Missouri.