Emotional Healing After a Miscarriage
The loss of a child through miscarriage can be a difficult and emotional experience. Even in the early weeks of pregnancy, many women develop a strong bond with their unborn child and feel a deep sense of loss when miscarriage occurs.
Common responses include shock or denial, disappointment or anger, helplessness or perceived loss of control, sense of failure, feelings of inadequacy, guilt or self-blame, sadness or fear. Everyone responds in a different way to the grief process. There are no “shoulds” or “right” ways to feel. Keep in mind that whatever your feelings, it is important to be gentle with yourself. Although there are many ways to lessen the pain, the only thing that truly diminishes grief is time. Some women will move through this loss freely, while for others, it will take far longer.
During your recovery, it is important to eat properly, get plenty of rest, exercise – and most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for what you need. Reach out to others and request help; allow friends to make meals, watch other children or help with household duties.
When you feel ready, talk about your experience. You may be surprised how many other women can offer their love and support because they have been down this road too. Although it does not ease your grief, miscarriage occurs in 10 to 20 percent of pregnancies making it a very difficult common experience. However, be prepared that when you talk about your experience, you may also encounter some misunderstanding. Many people who have not experienced a miscarriage consider it the end of a pregnancy rather than the loss of a child. They may question your grief or suggest that you keep busy and forget about your loss. Be assured that your grief is real and allow your tears to flow. In time, with love and support, your pain will subside, but the loss will always be a part of your life.
It is likely that you will not want to be around other pregnant women or that you will be unable to attend a friend or relative’s baby shower. This is a very natural reaction and does not indicate jealousy or selfishness on your part. It is important to honor these feelings and to be honest with others about them; they will understand.
Some women find it helpful to honor the existence of their baby by giving their baby a name and participating in a funeral or ritual to mark the loss. In addition, prepare yourself for future dates, such as your unborn baby’s due date and subsequent anniversaries. These dates will likely have a place in your heart for years to come.
One issue that exacerbates this loss is that there are not always explanations for miscarriage. While it is important to ask your health care provider if there is an explanation, understand that often there is no specific medical problem.
Given the many hormonal changes, you may experience mood swings, fatigue, irritability, heart palpitations, poor appetite and a desire to withdraw from social activities. All of these symptoms are normal and will gradually diminish. However, if you find these symptoms to be persistent or severe, call your health care provider immediately.
Physical Healing After a Miscarriage
Physically, it may take several weeks or months for your body to return to normal. In the beginning, you may notice spotting or light vaginal bleeding, mild cramping, nausea and fullness in your abdomen and breasts.
To help prevent infection, use sanitary napkins instead of tampons and avoid sexual intercourse until your bleeding stops. Call your health care provider immediately if:
- You have a fever of 100 degrees or more
- Bleeding increases significantly or lasts more than several weeks
- Bleeding changes color to bright red
- You experience pelvic pain or unusual cramping
- Your vaginal discharge appears yellow, green or has a bad odor
Planning for the Future
If you are considering becoming pregnant in the future, discuss your risks and options with your health care provider. Every situation is unique, but in most cases, the chances of suffering another loss are not significantly increased unless you have had three or more miscarriages. Whatever you decide, remember to give yourself ample time to recover physically and emotionally from your miscarriage before making the decision to get pregnant.
Subsequent pregnancies may create a number of psychological issues, including anxiety about possible recurrent miscarriages and the fear of not being able to have children. Anxiety will be greatest up until the time that the first miscarriage occurred. It is understandable that you would experience this type of response. In order to cope, stay in the here-and-now and focus on being pregnant again and not what could possibly happen.
If you want more structured, formal help, you may wish to pursue counseling at Virginia Women’s Center with one of our two psychologists: Dr. Lisa Cuseo-Ott or Dr. Mary Polce-Lynch. There are also many support organizations and groups in the Greater Richmond area that you may find helpful, including:
- Compassionate Friends
- www.compassionatefriends.org or 804.254.0588
- Family Extended
- Full Circle Grief Center
- www.fullcirclegriefcenter.org or 804.357.5924
- M.I.S.S. Foundation
- www.missfoundation.org or 800.726.4322
- Bliley’s Internment of Angels
- Bliley Funeral Home offers monthly funeral services for families who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth. The services are at no cost to you and close family and friends are welcome to attend. To learn more, call Bliley’s at 804.355.3800.
About Virginia Women’s Center
At Virginia Women’s Center, we value the complete health of women. As researchers continue to identify the significant relationship between physical and mental health, Virginia Women’s Center has emerged as a leader in innovative health care for women by providing psychological counseling services to our patients since 2005. For more information, visit www.VirginiaWomensCenter.com, or find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
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