Miscarriage: It is a word that carries a lot of negative emotion. It is what many pregnant women fear, and something most of us do not want to think about. It is not an uncommon occurrence—according to the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of confirmed pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Most of us either know someone who has experienced a miscarriage, or have experienced it firsthand.
In my trauma work with clients, I have observed that the loss of an unborn child is a significant trauma that has lasting effects for the person who lost the baby and that person’s families. Bringing attention to this issue is very important, so that people know they do not have to suffer alone and know what they can do to move forward.
Common Feelings After Miscarriage
After a miscarriage, it is common to feel an overwhelming number of emotions with high intensity. Emotions may fluctuate frequently, and it may feel like riding a roller coaster. A woman and her family may feel an intense feeling of loss. Hormone fluctuations and changes can further intensify emotions and mood swings.
The trauma of the loss can manifest both emotionally and physically. Physical cramping, pressure, and pain, even months and years after the loss, are not uncommon. Depression may set in and the woman and family members may notice a decrease in mood and ability to participate in once-pleasurable activities. Relationships may suffer, as both partners and their family members may feel a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, not knowing what to do to improve or fix the situation.
Anxiety about trying to get pregnant again is also very common, which can manifest with fear connected to having another miscarriage or not being able to conceive again. Once a woman does conceive after miscarriage, anxiety can become even more intense. Some clients have compared going through pregnancy after miscarriage to holding your breath for a very long time in anticipation that something bad might happen. Overanalyzing aches, pains, and body changes during another pregnancy can also contribute to increased anxiety as the woman continues to fear and worry that miscarriage may happen again.
It is an experience that can be draining and taxing. Even people with a brilliant ability to cope with hardship may find that they are brought to their knees when experiencing such a significant loss. The good news is that there is hope to move forward.
First and foremost, talk about it! Everyone connected to the person who experienced the miscarriage may feel a sense of loss. Talking to each other is essential. Don’t push away the emotions; instead see them for what they are—a vital part of the healing process. In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of allowing oneself to experience emotions after trauma. Miscarriage is no different. Fighting the emotions will only prolong healing and moving forward.
Consider keeping a journal of your experience. Journaling is one of the most cathartic experiences and can promote healing.
Be sure you are communicating with your doctor about your symptoms. After such a traumatic experience, the body experiences major changes. Some of the symptoms need to be addressed medically. It has been my experience that some women will ignore their symptoms and continue behaving as if they are Superwoman. This can eventually lead to more problems, as prolonged stress can take a very negative physical toll. What you are experiencing is valid and taking care of your physical health is extremely important.
Focus on self-care activities, even if you don’t want to. When depression and anxiety set it, they can decrease our motivation to do things we know are healthy and helpful. Participate in self-care regularly and deliberately. Take time in your busy schedule to ensure that you are caring for yourself appropriately.
Seek help. I have had tremendous success in utilizing EMDR and other treatment modalities to treat women and their loved ones after miscarriage. The sooner you can get help, the better. On that same note, it is never too late to get help. Even if it has been a long time since the miscarriage, therapy can still be very helpful and effective in helping you heal.
What Family Members Can Do
Don’t try to fix the situation. Many times, loved ones want to make the pain go away, which only ends up invalidating the feelings and grief process of the person in pain. Ultimately, this can stifle the healing process. Allow all parties involved to experience their feelings related to the loss. The best things you can do are listening and validating what they are feeling.
Participate in the healing process. This loss has affected you, too, so be sure you are talking about your own emotions and experiences. Participate in journal keeping, self-care activities, and getting help yourself, since depression, anxiety, and trauma can affect you as well. Participating in these activities can be very encouraging to the person who experienced the miscarriage and can help them feel that they are not alone in their grief.
Don’t minimize the loss. Miscarriage is just like any other loss: it is painful, and people take time to heal. Face the pain and together you can heal and move forward.
American Pregnancy Association (2011, November). Miscarriage. Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/miscarriage.html.
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