Guide to Recovery and Emotional Healing After Miscarriage
Going Through an Unfortunate Miscarriage
To experience a pregnancy loss is extremely unimaginable. The thought of it is something one would not even want to entertain. Miscarriages are what heartbreaks and bad dreams are made of. Now that these bad dreams have become your reality, you may be feeling more pain than you ever thought there could be. A miscarriage can take a toll on your physical and emotional health. Emotional healing usually takes longer than healing the physical impact. Allowing yourself to feel grief for your loss can help you fully heal over time.
Dealing with a miscarriage can be excruciatingly difficult. There is a feeling of deep loss even when you never saw your baby and held her physically. The loss is still there because you, as the mother, know that she was there, growing inside you. She was part of you. The loss is real. To have something you hold dearly close to your heart be suddenly lost is truly heartbreaking. You may have been feeling excited over the idea of becoming a mother and may have already formed a bond with your baby. For everything to come suddenly to a stop will require you to make major adjustments. It can be a rollercoaster of emotions. You will most definitely feel sadness, and you may be disheartened over your loss. You may also be feeling resentful and angry that the miscarriage happened to you. You may have the tendency to blame yourself for the loss and be withdrawn from your family and friends. There may be tears. There may be none at all. You may say you feel nothing. You may even have trouble sleeping or eating or both. Whatever they may be, your reaction is what’s normal for you. There is no right or wrong.
Understanding what happened, being aware of what to expect and knowing the next steps can greatly help you get through this difficult situation. As much as you can, though understandably tough, keep your partner and doctor informed of your emotional and physical state. You will need and appreciate all the help that you can get.
Understanding What Happened
Miscarriage is what happens when a pregnancy terminates on its own, within the first twenty weeks of gestation. The embryo is expelled from the uterus before it is ready. Heavy bleeding with back pain and cramping are considered warning signs of a miscarriage. Other signs and symptoms that you may be having a miscarriage include weight loss, presences of white-pink mucus, painful contractions every 5 to 20 minutes, tissue with clots passing from the vagina and decrease in signs of pregnancy. According to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, it is the most common type of pregnancy loss.
There are varied reasons for a miscarriage, and more often than not, the cause may not be identified. The most common cause of miscarriage in the first trimester is chromosomal abnormality. Chromosomal abnormalities result to damaged egg or sperm cells. Other possible factors that may result to a miscarriage include hormonal problems, maternal health problems, improper implantation of the egg into the lining of the uterus, maternal age, and use of harmful substances. Factors such as sex, light work and moderate exercise however, have not been proven to cause miscarriage.
What Should You Expect?
The minute that you suspect you may be having a miscarriage, immediately go to see your doctor. You may be asked to undergo an ultrasound to check for a heartbeat or confirm the miscarriage. You doctor may also perform a pelvic exam to check the dilation of your cervix. Blood tests may also be done to check your hCG levels, blood count and blood type. Blood typing is done to determine whether you are are Rh negative, in which case you would need a shot of Rh immunoglobulin. This shot can help prevent problems in future pregnancies in case your blood comes in contact with fetal blood cells.
If a miscarriage is confirmed, expect that your uterus will need to be emptied. Emptying the uterus will help your menstrual cycle resume its normal state. This will help normalize your period after a miscarriage. This is important for when you are ready to try and get pregnant again. If you have encountered heavy bleeding during your miscarriage, especially if you were just a few weeks into your pregnancy, you may have had a complete miscarriage. A complete miscarriage means that your uterus had been cleared out of all the fetal tissue. When the miscarriage happens later, it may be incomplete and some of the fetal tissue may not have been completely cleared out. These tissues need to be removed, and there are a few ways to do this:
- Expectant management - this option lets you wait out an incomplete miscarriage. The pregnancy will naturally expel itself. The process can take from a few days up to four weeks, depending on your body’s reaction. Expectant management lets nature do its work and allows your body regulate itself before resuming your normal menstrual cycle.
- Miscarriage medications - miscarriage medications may be taken in case your body is not showing any signs of expelling the miscarriage on its own. These medications can help speed up the process. Mifepristone and misoprostol are among the most commonly prescribed by healthcare practitioners. How long and how fast an expulsion occurs will still depend on your body as it varies from woman to woman. It usually takes a few days before you start to expel the miscarriage and bleeding begins. Cramping, nausea and diarrhea are common side effects of these medications.
- Baby wipes and kitchen roll. Those first few tastes and spits make very little mess however as your child graduates to more colourful food and wanting the put their hands in the bowl having a good stocks of cleaning supplies close to hand is an advantage.
- Dilation and Curettage - this is a minor surgery where the fetal tissue and placenta are gently scraped from your uterus by a medical doctor. Post-surgery bleeding may occur but should not last for more than a week.
Which option to take will depend on a number of factors. Here are some of the things to consider when deciding on which route to take in order to empty out your uterus:
- Stage of miscarriage. How far along is the miscarriage? Is there heavy bleeding? How often and intense are the cramps? If there is heavy bleeding and cramping, chances are the miscarriage is well under way, and it is best to let it naturally progress. If it is a missed miscarriage and there are no bleeding and cramping, miscarriage medications or surgery may be better options.
- Your emotional state. Going through the process faster will allow for faster recovery. The sooner that you are able to complete the process and be done with the miscarriage, the sooner you’ll be able to come to terms with the loss.
- Pros versus Cons. Surgery is certainly faster but it does carry with it a risk of infection, albeit very low. Waiting out an incomplete miscarriage may have its drawbacks in that there is a risk that it won’t completely be cleared out, and will eventually require surgery.
- The need to evaluate the miscarriage. It is easier to determine the cause of miscarriage when the fetal tissue is evacuated surgically.
What Should Your Next Steps Be?
- Watching out for complications. Whether you’ve opted to manage your miscarriage naturally or surgically, it is best to visit your doctor after a few weeks so that he or she may check for complications, if any. If bleeding persists for more than a week, have yourself checked. The persistent bleeding may be an indication of an infection or it may also be a sign that the fetal tissues have not been completely cleared out. Presence of foul-smelling discharge is also a sign of infection. Check for fever, chills and abdominal pain. Complete recovery is important for a possibility of later pregnancies.
- Resuming normal activities. Be sure to consult your doctor when you may resume your normal activities no matter if you’ve had surgery or not to treat your miscarriage. In order to avoid infection, your doctor may advise you to abstain from sex and exercise for at least two weeks after the miscarriage has been addressed. Using tampons is also recommended to be avoided.
Emotional healing will take longer than physical healing. It is understandable that you feel a wide range of sad emotions. It is important that you allow yourself to grieve for your loss. Understanding the grief process may help you understand what and why you are having the emotions that you are feeling.
The Stages of Grief
The grief process is something a person who has suffered a loss goes through. These are the stages that one must go through in order to achieve emotional healing:
The stage of shock and denial.
When you are in shock and denial, there is a general feeling of disbelief and numbness. You cannot believe the predicament that you are in and you might think it can’t be happening to you. In this stage, you have not yet fully understood what has happened and you have not yet accepted that it has happened, and that it happened to you.
The stage of guilt and anger.
Still in disbelief that the tragedy has happened and still unable to make sense of it, you may tend to scramble for anything or anyone to blame for what has happened. You may want to blame yourself, thinking that you had done something wrong to lose the baby. You may also put the blame on others and feel resentful to your friends and family. You may feel envious of people who are with child or pregnant. You may feel angry over the idea that they have you have lost.
The stage of depression and despair.
Having lost something so precious, you may experience intense sadness and pain. You may find yourself crying constantly and unable to eat or sleep. You may find it hard to be interested in everything else around you. You may feel despair over never being able to have a baby again.
The stage of acceptance.
This is the final stage of grief where you will be able to come to terms with your loss. Acceptance does not mean you will no longer remember what happened. Coming to terms with the loss means you are ready for life again.
Coping with Grief while Dealing with a Miscarriage
You feel immensely sad over your loss and that is completely normal. Know that the rollercoaster of emotions that you may feel are all completely normal. Too many or too little tears. Numbness. Anger. You are bound to feel them all, and you have every right to whatever emotion you feel. The grief that you have is real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Do what you have to do in order to get through your grieving process.
Establish a good support system. Turn to your partner and loved ones for support. Let them know how much you are grieving. Share your feelings openly with your partner so that you both know neither of you are alone in this. This will help in both your healing. Understand that you may grieve differently and it is important to remain respectful and sensitive of each other’s emotions.
Talking to a counselor may also help. You may talk to your priest, pastor or spiritual leader and ask for guidance. Request for a private ceremony for you and your family so that you may find closure. Sharing your feelings or talking through a support group is also helpful. There is relief in being able to share your story with other people who have experienced the same fate. People who have survived a miscarriage may also help by sharing tips on how they overcame their tragedy.
Don’t forget to nourish yourself. Nourish your body with healthy food to help you adjust with the physically and emotionally exhausting impacts of a miscarriage. Be sure to think of your overall well being. Manage your stress by participating in holistic activities.
Pregnancy After a Miscarriage
Once your body as completely healed and once you’re ready again, pregnancy after a miscarriage is possible. The uterus is very capable of recovering from a miscarriage. It is usually alright to try and get pregnant again after you have had one normal menstrual cycle. Do check with your doctor first to check for presence of scarring or left behind placental tissue. In such cases, you may be required to wait a bit longer. The important thing to focus on is that you can and you will get pregnant again.