Miscarriage is estimated to occur in 20% to 25% of pregnancies.
In some of these pregnancies, the loss may be so early that the mother is unaware and simply believes she is having an unusually late, heavy or painful period.
When women are in baby-making mode, often they’ve done a home pregnancy test within the “two week wait”. This means that they will have a higher chance of discovering one of these very early losses. The emotional high of the pregnancy test is dashed by the arrival of a period.
At other times, the pregnancy is further along. A woman may have received the good news of a positive home pregnancy test, confirmed by a blood test. She then turns up to the 6-7 week scan full of excitement, only to be told that the embryo has no heartbeat.
Loss may occur at later stages. Having passed several milestones, gaining confidence with each one, the discovery of pregnancy loss can be extremely hard to process – to radically shift emotional gears while dealing with medical arrangements, not to mention the pressure of dealing with friends’ and loved ones’ reactions and questions.
Shock, grief and trauma are common responses to pregnancy loss. Recovery involves consciously tending to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.
It is normal to experience a kind of shock, which can feel like numbness.
After the discovery of miscarriage, there are often medical needs to attend to. Women with missed miscarriages (detected though scans or other tests) may need support to help the body to let go of the pregnancy, or to manage the process medically. Women who have miscarried spontaneously will often still be recommended to go through tests and possibly procedures to ensure that the process is completed. Loss at later stages may involve very difficult decisions by the parents.
Fathers can feel sidelined at this stage, with most of the focus being on the mother and her medical needs.
Making treatment decisions while trying to process the emotions of loss can be a welcome distraction for some, or a cold and clinical experience for others.
Our culture offers no framework for acknowledging pregnancy loss.
There are no cultural rituals, no ceremonies, no specialised greeting cards and no shared traditions such as sending flowers. There will often be no bereavement leave in the workplace, and while the mother might take sick leave to process the experience and physically recuperate, the father generally has no access to a workplace structure that acknowledges his loss.
Given the dicey nature of the first trimester, many couples choose to keep their pregnancy news quiet until they have reached the “safe zone”. If the couple hasn’t shared their news, then to gain support from their loved ones they need to disclose both the pregnancy and the loss at the same time. This can be a difficult time for people who have trouble putting feelings into words, who feel reluctant asking for help or who tend to keep their emotions private.
On the other hand, for couples who have shared the news, it is no easier. Sharing the news with close friends and family can bring support. However, it is common for the parents to feel obliged, when their own emotions are so raw, to manage the emotions and reactions of the people they are sharing their news with. Another difficulty is encountering people who are more on the aquaintance level, for example clients in the workplace. Well-meaning enquiries about the pregnancy then need to be met with some kind of explanation. How much emotional energy should you really invest into this person? It can feel unfair to touch into that painful place in your heart for the sake of someone you are not close to.
Although our culture offers very little ritual support for grieving parents experiencing pregnancy loss, fortunately we now have some not-for-profit and community groups who are taking this issue into their own hands. They are formed to both support parents as well as raise awareness in our community to make it easier for everyone to support people through this particular and unique experience of loss and grief. You can visit the links below to find out more:
Bears of Hope – “Bears of Hope’s mission is to provide ongoing comfort, support and counselling to parents and families who have experienced the loss of a baby during pregnancy, birth and infancy.”
Sands – “Sands provides support, information and education to anyone affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.”
It is normal to experience some degree of traumatic response after miscarriage.
Some women become very anxious at the thought of becoming pregnant again. Some women feel fine to put the experience behind them but then during the next pregnancy, worry or anxiety may surface seemingly out of the blue.
It is normal to feel fear, apprehension or even dread around the circumstances that remind you of the prior loss. For example, if you discovered no fetal heartbeat at the 6-week scan, then in subsequent pregnancies you may find yourself becoming very anxious at the thought of going through this process again.
Fathers can experience their own kind of trauma. For example, they may feel powerless to protect their partner from further harm or feel fearful of re-experiencing emotional rawness during subsequent pregnancies.
Because our community doesn’t have good frameworks to support couples, it may feel like your reactions are out of proportion. You may not have had conversations about pregnancy loss, and don’t know what’s “normal”. Culturally, we tend to frame pregnancy loss as a medical event, often up to a very late gestational age. Even parents of stillborn babies can encounter ignorance that comes across as insensitivity, around the nature of this poignant experience of loss.
The support groups mentioned above can be a welcome comfort and validation of what you’re experiencing. You may also wish to seek out professional help to process the difficult aspects of what you’re going through. For example, The Bumpy Road is a service run by psychologists supporting people going through fertility, pregnancy, birthing and postpartum difficulties.
You may find that your recovery and healing process takes place on many levels.
You may recover relatively soon on the physical level, while the grieving process continues at its own pace.
Pregnancy loss can feel impossible to reconcile on an emotional and spiritual level. Be gentle with yourself and seek support and guidance from trusted people around you. Give yourself time, and be open to going through contradictory states of mind, thoughts and emotions.
If you would like wholistic support during your recovery process or if you are trying to conceive after pregnancy loss, we are here to hold space for you.
Trying to conceive again after loss can be a tender and vulnerable experience. We can support you through this process and provide a safe space to discover your inner resources and sustain your equilibrium.
We see the whole person as a unified entity. Thoughts, feelings, body processes, emotions, spirituality, physical symptoms… all can be included, in an integrated fashion, working with your whole self towards finding a state of harmony.
Acupuncture can be of enormous help during difficult times, for example helping with:
Book now to start your healing path with us. We look forward to supporting you.
If you feel distressed, please call Lifeline 24-hour support: 13 11 14