What happens when the hopes and dreams you had for your growing baby come to an abrupt end? When miscarriage strikes, prospective parents must contend with grief, guilt and anger, their emptiness and despair compounded by the nagging question, “Will we ever be able to have a baby?”
Amid the sadness, it may be hard to believe that the answer, in most cases, is a resounding yes. Although as many as 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage (usually within the first trimester), most women who miscarry go on to have a successful pregnancy. Even women who have had three consecutive miscarriages have a 55 to 60 percent chance of bringing a healthy baby to term.
Of course, while your loss is new, thoughts of subsequent pregnancies and future possibilities do little to ease the pain. Here are some thoughts that may help while the pain is fresh.
Know that your loss is very real and that the grief you are experiencing may be as strong as that felt at the death of a parent, sibling or older child. You formed a bond with your baby from the time you learned you were pregnant. As your body began to change, your attachment grew. And hearing the fetal heartbeat or seeing movement during an ultrasound only made the bond more real.
If your loss occurs later in the pregnancy, it may be comforting to save ultrasound images or other mementos from the pregnancy. An early miscarriage, on the other hand, may be complicated by the fact that not many people knew you were pregnant and so are unaware of your loss.
Remind yourself that the miscarriage was not your fault. There’s no point in torturing yourself or your husband with “what ifs”—“What if I exercised too much or didn’t eat as I should have?” or “What if we hadn’t made love after becoming pregnant?”
Often to blame is a genetic disorder that prevents the fetus from developing normally. Congenital abnormalities, serious infection or exposure to toxic drugs and chemicals may also trigger a miscarriage.
Ask your obstetrician what went wrong with your pregnancy. Not only will this help you understand what happened but possibly prevent it from happening again.
No two people are exactly alike, and no two parents mourn the same way. If you suffer an early miscarriage, your husband may have a less emotional reaction than you because he lacked the physical closeness with your baby. It’s important to talk about your feelings with your husband and let him share his feelings with you.
Your friends and family may want to help but not know what to do. Tell them what you need. It could be as simple as keeping you company or picking up an older child from school. Let them be your sounding board if it helps you feel better. If you prefer not to talk about your miscarriage, simply tell them so. Try not to let well-meaning words, such as “You can always try again,” and “At least it happened early on,” diminish your loss. Realize that most people are only trying to help and simply don’t know what to say.
Consider professional help
If your sadness deepens and doesn’t subside after several months, you may need professional help. The American Medical Association recently advised doctors that women who suffer miscarriages are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop major depression in the six months following the loss compared to women who have not been pregnant.
You and your husband may be tempted to conceive again very quickly after a miscarriage. While this may be physically possible, it may not be the best decision emotionally. You need enough time to recover from your loss before facing the challenges of another pregnancy.