Losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy can be a big loss!
It is estimated that 10-25% of pregnancies end up in miscarriages and less than 1% in still births, making miscarriages a fairly common occurrence.
The Emotional Impact of Miscarriages on Women
Although miscarriages are common, most people are unaware of how prevalent they are and the emotional distress they can cause to women and their families. For most women, a miscarriage is emotionally difficult. In fact, losing a baby at any point during pregnancy can be both physically and emotionally devastating. Women can feel as though their whole world has fallen apart. They may also feel they have lost a part of themselves or that their dreams and hopes for the future have been shattered.
The shock, anger, loneliness, sadness, guilt, and yearning for another baby can be overwhelming at times. This is compounded by the fact that despite experiencing a death, there is nothing tangible to mourn.
What is more, while grieving, women may feel physically and emotionally exhausted and unable to get anything done.
The causes of pregnancy loss are often hard to determine, yet, women may often feel guilty as if somehow they brought the miscarriage on themselves. They may feel like their emotions and bodies are out of control. By blaming themselves, they may be able to assign a “reason” for what happened. For example, a woman may think, “it’s my fault… if only I hadn’t drunk that glass of wine,” or “if I’d reduced my stress at work, I’d still be pregnant.” By identifying themselves as a culprit and taking on the blame, women may feel more control over preventing another miscarriage from happening in the future. While assigning blame to themselves may help women cope, it can also cause a great deal of distress.
Studies have shown that several factors may influence the intensity of a woman’s feelings after a miscarriage:
ð The longer it took to get pregnant, the harder the loss may feel.
ð The more advanced the technology used to achieve or maintain pregnancy (i.e. infertility treatments), the stronger the emotional and financial investment, and consequently, the greater the loss.
ð The older women are, the more pressure they may feel about their biological clocks running out.
ð The more advanced the gestational age of the fetus, the greater the grief.
ð Repeated history of pregnancy loss — increases insecurity and further re-traumatizes women after each loss
Suggestions that you may find helpful in your healing:
- 1. Acknowledge That Your Miscarriage is a Real Loss
Recognize that your pregnancy loss, regardless of when it happened, is a form of death and can be very painful. If your friends and family try to diminish your experience, ask them to respect your feelings. Also, find a way to formally say “good-bye” to your baby– have a memorial service, plant a tree, do a charity walk, or put together a memory box.
- 2. Take Time Out to Grieve
Grieving is the emotional process of letting go of the connection (bond) between you and your baby. The more you are able to grieve and mourn the loss of your baby, the better and faster you will be able to recover and regain hope– if not for another child, for your future without a child. Grieving takes time: although studies show that it may take from 3-12 months to recover, there is no set timeline.
- 3. Accept That You and Your Partner May Grieve Differently
As a woman, how you experience a miscarriage may differ from how your partner experiences it. This is normal for many couples. Because you carried the baby, physically, you may have been more attached to the developing baby- you may feel that you lost a part of yourself. A male partner, on the other hand, may have had less of a bond to the baby and may seem to recover more quickly.
Remember, grieving is a highly individual process and no two people grieve alike or at the same time. However, if differences are not recognized, they can put a strain on the relationship. “Different” does not mean better, or worse. Talking about your different experiences with each other while grieving can be helpful.
- 4. Find Meaning in Your Baby’s Short Life
It may take time to find purpose and meaning in this sad experience. Can you find the “gifts” that your baby gave you? Often, parents who have experienced a pregnancy loss say that they became more appreciative of the opportunity to parent their baby later on, derived more pleasure, and showed more patience with daily struggles. The baby that did not live may become a “guardian angel” and protector of his/her siblings.
- 5. Plan Ahead for “Difficult Days”
In the days ahead, be prepared for significant reminders of your baby that will trigger feelings of sadness. Your first period, your “should-have-been” due date, walking into a doctor’s office, being reminded of your friend who was pregnant at the same time as you and delivered a healthy baby, or the anniversary of your miscarriage may all remind you of your loss. If you know that these difficult days may cause sadness you can plan ahead to gather extra support from your partner or friends.
- 6. Gather Support
Find people who can understand your grief. Sometimes, family and friends can not understand the magnitude of your loss and you need to find other empathic people. Use support groups to get through the difficult days.
Even if it feels unbearable at times, you will get through this.
A psychologist with expertise in the area of pregnancy loss can help you find ways to heal and regain the strength to embrace new pregnancy if that is what you choose to do.
If you have suffered the loss and could use the help of a therapist, please call Dr.Irena at 281-267-1742 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation, or email her at Irena@permalink.com.
Dr. Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist in private practice who specializes in helping moms and mom wannabes. Her focuses are pregnancy-related issues, pregnancy loss, depression, post-partum depression, and parenting of young children. Her number one priority is to help women feel better about themselves and feel empowered about their choices. Dr.Irena’s offices are located in the Woodlands and in the Houston Medical Center.