What you need to know after having a miscarriage
Losing a pregnancy, no matter how far along, is heartbreaking. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, no silver lining, and it can be hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. We’re here today as a resource, community, and support system for any person affected by a miscarriage. We see you, and we’re here for you. We’ve talked to OBGYNs and several women who have had a miscarriage about their experience and how they picked themselves back up physically and emotionally.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage happens when an embryo doesn’t survive before the 20th week of pregnancy. They typically happen within the first three months of pregnancy and are very common. In fact, 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages are almost never caused by something the pregnant person did. One common cause of a miscarriage is when a fertilized egg has an abnormal amount of genes. Unfortunately, this is completely random and out of our control. Additional causes include certain illnesses like diabetes and abnormalities in the uterus.
There are also several different types of a miscarriage. First and foremost -- If you notice any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy, see your doctor right away. A threatened miscarriage happens when your cervix stays closed but you experience vaginal bleeding. This is called a threatened miscarriage because, 50% of the time the bleeding stops and the embryo develops as normal, and the other 50% result in pregnancy loss. An inevitable miscarriage occurs when you have vaginal bleeding and your cervix is open. This type of miscarriage unfortunately always ends in pregnancy loss. There is an incomplete miscarriage, in which some of the pregnancy tissue remains inside your body and you’ll need followup treatment. Conversely, a complete miscarriage does not require treatment after as all of the pregnancy tissue leaves your body. Finally, a missed miscarriage is when neither you nor your doctor recognize you are having a miscarriage, because you did not experience any cramps or bleeding. Your doctor will be able to see this in an ultrasound. Keep a clear line of communication with your doctor and never be afraid to ask questions.
Let yourself grieve.
Loss is loss and life as you know it will feel different after a miscarriage. Remember: healing yourself emotionally can be harder than the physical healing your body has to do. Acceptance will take time, and be kind to yourself as you process. A caring support system is crucial here as well.. According to Rayna Markin, a psychologist specializing in pregnancy loss and maternal mental health, many women suffering a miscarriage experience feelings of shame and inadequacy. Finding support in a parent, friend, or partner can really help to center you as you process.
Some women we spoke with about their miscarriage experiences laid out the stages of grief that they felt. First, they reported shock and denial. “This couldn’t possibly be happening to me.” What came next was anger and guilt. Arielle Spiegel, founder of CoFertility, told Stix, “I knew there had to be something wrong with me. But what?” Thoughts like these are so common after pregnancy loss and you’re certainly not alone. After this they reported feelings of depression and despair, followed eventually by acceptance.
But how did they cope with all of these feelings after experiencing something so devastating? First, know that your feelings are valid. There is no “good way” to grieve. Some well-intentioned friends and family will try to make you feel better, and may ultimately just make things worse for you. Also, talk honestly with your partner about it. Remember that everyone grieves differently, but your partner also lost a baby. Sharing your feelings, whether that be with your partner, friends, a support group, etc., will help you find comfort in your emotions and collect your thoughts. Alison Hoy, founder of Brave Girl Birth told Stix, “I encourage all women to share what they’re going through with other women. So many people have found strength in my voice, which in turn helped them to find theirs”. Additionally, ask your doctor for recommendations of therapists or support groups to help you cope.
It can be scary, but you must see your doctor as soon as you suspect you are having a miscarriage symptoms. If a miscarriage is confirmed, your uterus needs to be emptied so that your menstrual cycle can return to normal. You and your doctor will make the best decision for your body, but know that there are a few ways that this can happen. You can choose to let your body get rid of the pregnancy tissue naturally, which can take anywhere from a few days to 3 or 4 weeks. To help speed things along, your doctor might give you a miscarriage medication called misoprostol. This will cause bleeding, cramps, and nausea but will flush the tissue out of your body within 24-48 hours. Finally, there is a minor surgery called dilation and curettage (D&C), in which the doctor will remove the placental tissue from your uterus. Deciding which option to choose depends on how far along your pregnancy was, your physical and emotional state, and what your miscarriage looked like. You should be able to get back to regular activities shortly after, but your doctor will advise you to stay away from sex and tampons for a few weeks to avoid infection. Be sure to follow up with your doctor for weeks after your miscarriage to check for complications.
Let yourself move forward
Give yourself all the time you need to grieve after a miscarriage. It’s going to feel really weird when you notice yourself moving through the days, weeks, months and even starting to feel "normal" again. Try not to be too hard on yourself. It’s okay if you don’t think you’ll ever be ready to try again. It's okay if you're ready to try again.
If you are thinking about trying again, doctors recommend waiting a few months after your miscarriage. The good news is that the uterus excellent at recovering. When Arielle Spiegel got pregnant after a miscarriage, she told Stix, “In the early stages of my pregnancy, I was filled with tons of anxiety, because that’s what years of loss will do to you. Loss teaches you to expect the worst. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop”. Remind yourself that regardless of the loss you experienced, you can still give birth to a healthy baby. Even with women who have had 2 or 3 miscarriages, 65-75% of the next pregnancies are successful.
Experiencing pregnancy loss can stay with you for a very long time. It’s important to be patient with yourself, your body, and your loved ones as you navigate such devastating times and remember that it will get better over time. At Stix, we’re here for you. For more information like this, check out the Stix Library.