Pregnancy loss occurs more often than previously thought especially with the advent of more sensitive pregnancy tests. Women are finding out they are pregnant earlier, sometimes before missing their first period.
OBs/midwives conduct ultrasounds at 6-8 weeks whereas 20 years ago a woman got an ultrasound only at 20 weeks. Losses that may have been considered a heavy period in the past are being diagnosed as early miscarriages.
Women can be greatly impacted by cultural and societal expectations around miscarriage.
Women may hear the following after a loss:
- Well at least you know you can get pregnant
- Oh well, you’ll get pregnant again soon
- At least you have a child/children already
- What’s the big deal? I had miscarriages and didn’t make a big fuss about it
These statements are extremely devastating to hear even though the sayer may have had good intentions. Women and their partners need to be validated around the loss, feelings need to be expressed and released, and then healing can begin.
Some women choose to undergo a procedure in the hospital called a D&C. Some women choose to miscarry at home. These decisions are deeply personal and need to be respected.
Miscarriage may occur with no warning and a woman may feel traumatized by the experience in addition to how she is treated at the hospital if medical treatment was sought during the event.
Some women experience miscarriage and do not feel an intense loss, these experiences also need to be accepted.
Partners may not know how to support their grieving spouses/girlfriends during and after miscarriage. Partners may feel confused or helpless in providing support for their partners.
Some families experience the extremely sad news that their baby has died in utero. A miscarriage after 20 weeks is known as a stillbirth.
Chrissy Teigen is the most famous person to publicly discuss the stillbirth of her baby. She shared powerful images and messages on social media. We need more people to share these heartbreaking experiences to normalize the loss.
Families should be encouraged to hold and take pictures of their babies. Our death phobic society may deem this as “creepy” or “unacceptable” but it can be extremely healing. No parent should be shamed for wanting to hold their deceased baby.
There are support groups across the nation to help families that have experienced this loss. Talk therapy can be vital for a family to heal from this loss and to help address anxiety or other mental health issues that may arise in a subsequent pregnancy.
Some babies do not survive their first year of life. SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is one cause of infant death. Parents feel worried about SIDS because medical professionals still do not know the exact causes.
Prevention has been key to combat SIDS. Parents are asked to sleep separately from their babies, provide little bedding, and place infants on their backs. However, even the most vigilant parents can experience the loss of an infant.
Common feelings after miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death
Common thoughts after miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death
- My body is defective
- I’m not a real woman
- I’ll never be a mother
- What is wrong with me
- I killed my baby
I have been trained to use the Dual Process Model for grief and loss. The model states that we shift back and forth between Intuitive Grief (loss feels intense, no sense of time) to Instrumental Grief (loss is in the background and we are able to go through the motions of daily living). There is no time limit for loss and the treatment goal is to prevent complicated grief.
Complicated grief occurs when a loss is not processed emotionally. It was common during the AIDs crisis in the 1980’s. Surviving gay partners were excluded from grieving the death of their partners due to society’s homophobia.
I work with families to help them recover from these types of losses. You are not alone, help is out there.