Coping with a Miscarriage
DECEMBER 23, 2019
The death of a baby during pregnancy is one of the most painful experiences a couple may have. Physically and emotionally, mothers can be very bonded with their baby, even before the pregnancy is very far along. There are several organizations and online resources dedicated to providing mothers and fathers who experience this kind of heart-ache with information, support, and connection to others during the grieving process. If you have recently experienced a miscarriage, we hope that you can find some comfort and peace in knowing you are not alone.
Some Information About Miscarriages
Miscarriage refers to the unintentional death of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy. It is also known as a spontaneous abortion. Most miscarriages happen in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, sometimes before a woman even knows she is pregnant. It is estimated that 15%-25% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage. After the 20th week of pregnancy, a baby’s death is considered a still-birth (about 24,000 babies in the United States each year).
Usually, the cause is not something the mother did during the pregnancy, but it is most commonly the effect of a genetic abnormality in the fetus. It is very important for a woman to recognize that the miscarriage is most likely not her own fault.
Despite the fact that many miscarriages occur very early in a pregnancy, the emotional effects of a miscarriage can still be devastating for a couple who had been anticipating the birth of a healthy baby. After a miscarriage, a woman’s body must heal physically and is undergoing large fluctuations in hormone levels. However, the emotional effects usually take longer to deal with.
Dealing with a Miscarriage or Other Pregnancy Loss
Grieve at your own pace
It is important to let yourself grieve the death of your baby completely for as long as you need to. It is common to go through the three steps of grief: denial/shock; anger and guilt; and finally acceptance. These steps may take a long time; everyone grieves in their own way. Some women feel a roller coaster of emotions, from bitterness and anger to hopelessness. “It is natural to feel bombarded by mixed emotions when you receive the news that your infant has not survived. Understand that there is no right or wrong way to feel. There are no ‘shoulds’”. (TayLynn Johnson of Forever Families website).
Nourish your relationship with your spouse
A baby’s death can draw a married couple closer together or drive them further apart. One thing that should be remembered is that a husband and wife might have very different styles of dealing with grief. Men are more likely to focus on problem-solving, to “bury [themselves] in work when they are grieving”, and to be “less expressive about their feelings”. Sometimes a woman may misinterpret this reaction as not really caring about the miscarriage.
Take part in rituals and ceremony
Rituals to help treasure the baby’s memory can help with the healing process. You might want to name the baby and possibly have a funeral for them. Save keepsakes and record memories about the pregnancy. Research shows that religiosity and connecting with a higher power are things that lead to better coping. Other mothers like to participate in special rituals to commemorate the baby like planting a tree, donating to charity, or saving a piece of jewelry or their birthstone to remember them.
Prepare for the Future with Hope
Most women who have miscarriages are able to carry a healthy baby to term the next time around, even though they might have high anxiety about the success of subsequent pregnancies. Medical professionals recommend that couples don’t immediately rush into trying to become pregnant again. It is important to give a woman’s body and especially the couple’s emotions time to heal.
There are some factors that increase the risk of having a miscarriage that are important to be aware of and try to minimize. Hormone imbalances, obesity, and “excessive alcohol use and smoking can … be contributing factor[s]” (Andersson, et. Al, 2012). Only if you have three miscarriages, consecutively, should you contact a doctor and seek testing for possible problems.
View guidelines on how to help a friend with a recent miscarriage here.
Andersson, I., Nilsson, S., & Adolfsson, A. (2012). How women who have experienced one or more miscarriages manage their feelings and emotions when they become pregnant again – a qualitative interview study. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 26(2), 262-270. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6712.2011.00927.x
Van, P. (2012). Conversations, Coping, & Connectedness: A Qualitative Study of Women Who Have Experienced Involuntary Pregnancy Loss. Omega: Journal of Death & Dying, 65(1), 71-85.