Miscarriage: when joy turns to heartbreak
‘A life may last for just a moment…..
but memories can make that moment last forever’
Miscarriage can be an emotionally distressing and frightening experience to go through and is defined as: “a woman who suffers the loss of a pregnancy within the first 23 weeks”; after this time, the loss of a baby is classified as a stillbirth when a baby has died before birth.
Statistics show that one in five pregnancies sadly end in miscarriage. Over 80% of miscarriages happen within the first twelve weeks.
There is a 75% chance of miscarriage occurring within the first two weeks of pregnancy; this often happens naturally, before a woman is aware that she is pregnant. Between weeks three to six the percentage drops to a 10% chance of miscarriage. It then drops down to 5% between weeks six to twelve. After this time period, (during what is called the second trimester) the percentage drops again and the chance of miscarriage is 3%.
Some women experience recurrent miscarriage, (when a woman loses three or more pregnancies.) This is very uncommon and the percentage is one in a hundred woman.
The risk of miscarriage gets higher with age. Research shows that in woman under 30, one in ten will end in miscarriage, in woman aged 35-39, two in ten, and in woman over 45, over half will end in miscarriage.
The cause of miscarriage is often unknown and a variety of factors may contribute. Early causes can be linked to abnormal chromosomes in the baby. If the loss is experienced later on, problems linked to the cervix or the womb can be a common factor. Sometimes an early routine scan can reveal that the heartbeat is absent and the foetus has not developed normally.
The symptoms of miscarriage can include : bleeding, abdominal pain, severe cramps, back pain, weakness and a fever.
Not knowing what caused the loss of a baby can be very difficult to accept and come to terms with, and often a woman will feel she may have done something wrong that caused the miscarriage; this can give rise to feelings of guilt and self blame.
When miscarriage occurs medical intervention can be required and some women will need to undergo treatment. This falls into several categories:
Surgically: a small operation known as an (ERPC) evacuation of retained products of conception; this is where the lining of the womb is cleared and any traces of the pregnancy is removed.
Medically: a combination of pills and pessaries; this helps to clear the lining of the womb and any traces of the pregnancy allowing for the natural monthly cycle to return.
Sometimes “nature takes its course”, and the pregnancy will naturally clear itself without any intervention.
Losing a baby at any stage in a pregnancy is a very difficult experience to go through, and although it is very rare for it to affect a woman’s physical health seriously, it can have a huge impact on a psychological level, it is often on an emotional level where it will take the most time to heal.
Grief and a sense of loss can feel intense and overwhelming. From the moment a woman knows or confirms that she is pregnant a natural sense of bonding between mother and baby is experienced and can feel very powerful; this is what we refer to as a woman’s “maternal instinct”.
Every miscarriage is unique; how a woman feels will often depend on the conditions surrounding her, what circumstances she is in at the time, how much support she has, what that pregnancy meant to her, her partner and her family, and whether the baby was planned or wanted at that time.
It may not have been the first loss that has been experienced, bringing more disappointment and emotional pain; a “roller coaster” of emotions.
It is natural to feel and experience many different emotions when a miscarriage occurs such as:
- Feeling tearful and sensitive
- feeling shocked and experiencing some denial
- feeling guilty
- Feeling lost
- Feeling panicky and anxious
- Feeling tired and exhausted
The experience of miscarriage can also leave a woman feeling low and depressed, struggling to cope and function with normal every day life, a heightened sensitivity to other new mums and pregnant woman and it may feel like there are new babies every where she looks, such as: on the television, in the supermarket or in every magazine. This is a natural response and will begin to fade as time passes.
Jealousy is another intense emotion and can be experienced by some women that have suffered a miscarriage, hearing the news of someone else’s pregnancy can serve to magnify the feelings of loss and grief.
Miscarriage is a different kind of loss, in a sense that it is different from grief that is experienced when we lose someone that we knew in life. It is the loss of your hopes and dreams, what would have been, and most importantly your loss of the future as a parent.
This is linked into what you would have shared as a family and where that child’s place would have been within the family.
As time goes by you may reflect on how old your child would have been, what he or she would have been like in looks and personality.
Time is “man-made”; therefore there is no time limit or measure on how long the grieving process will take; often this is longer than those around you may expect, which can leave a women feeling very isolated in her grief for the baby that she has lost.
Sadly, others don’t always understand and can be insensitive to the person and family that has lost the baby. Comments such as: “ you can try for another one” or “ it was meant to be” can be difficult to deal with, and can magnify the intensity of your feelings and the void that the loss has left behind.
Miscarriage can impact hugely on a relationship and can either bring a couple closer together or push them apart as each person grieves differently. Often the attention is on the woman when miscarriage occurs, and the father of the child feels pushed out, forgotten and left in the background. The father often finds himself in a supportive role, sometimes having to “shelve“ his feelings of grief while other priorities are dealt with, such as: looking after the family while his partner recovers on a physical level from the loss.
Adjustment to the loss takes time and can impact all levels of a relationship. Intimacy between a couple is often affected as a woman recovers physically and emotionally from the loss. Decisions such as: “whether to try again”, can feel daunting, and feelings of guilt that you are replacing the baby that you have lost are difficult emotions to process. Fear is often an element when deciding to try again, the fear that it may happen again lurks in the background and is something that can be hard to deal with.
Like “throwing a pebble in a pond”, the “ripples” of grief and loss extends beyond the parents, to siblings who were looking forward to a new brother or sister. Talking to children about the loss is important, so that they understand what has happened, and that they don’t feel that they are to blame in any way. Helping them to express their feelings of loss within the family unit.
What can I do to help me cope with my loss
- Everyone is unique in their grief, do things that bring you comfort and feel right for you.
- The healing process takes time; give yourself plenty of space, remember that healing doesn’t mean forgetting about the baby that you have lost.
- Share your feelings, this can help you to feel less isolated in your grief.
- Protect yourself from harsh conditions and situations that may magnify how you are feeling. Be aware of your sensitivity to other mums and babies. It will fade but this takes time; acceptance that there may be a part of you that will always feel the sadness of your loss.
- Allow yourself to remember your baby. There are many special ways that you can do this such as: planting a rose bush or special plant in the garden, a piece of jewellery with a birth stone that is linked to your baby, writing a journal about your feelings, and giving your baby a name.
How can counselling help
Counselling offers a gentle supportive environment and can help you to process your feelings of grief and loss, a confidential space for you talk about your experience, hopes, fears and any issues that your loss may have brought up for you.
At Rutland House all of our Leicester therapists are highly trained to help you to move through the grieving process, working at your own pace, enabling you to move forward when you feel ready, restructuring your life in a positive and balanced way.
Helpline: 01924 200 799
Mon-Fri 9am- 4pm
A range of leaflets that can be downloaded and printed off for self-help and information.