Many people say that the joyous news of a pregnancy should not be shared until after a couple of months, and perhaps for good reason: Recent studies estimate that somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 80% of miscarriages take place within the first 12 weeks. Miscarriage is technically defined as a pregnancy that ends within the first 20 weeks (after that, it is called a “stillbirth,” even if the death occurs inside the womb). Miscarriage is a common and complex form of loss. It can take people on an emotional rollercoaster, from the time they first begin expecting a baby and feeling that life begin to grow, to the time it is suddenly taken away.
As with all deaths, guilt is a common response to a miscarriage. Many people wonder if there was something they could have done differently to prevent this tragedy, especially the mother. The truth is, between 50 and 70% of miscarriages are believed to be the result of “chromosomal abnormalities,” meaning that either the egg or the sperm had the wrong number of chromosomes and therefore the fertilized egg could not develop properly. It is such a common phenomenon that many medical providers do not even investigate the cause after a single miscarriage. Pregnancy is such a delicate and mysterious process that even after investigation the cause of more than half of all miscarriages remains unknown. When parents blame themselves, as common as it is, their assumption are not only probably inaccurate, but they are also hindering their own recovery.
Political debates rage about the moment when a life begins, but within the emotional spectrum of a miscarriage many women feel no doubt that the miscarriage involved the death of an individual life. This is no time for politics. Women are likely to suffer all the feelings of loss that accompanies the death of a loved one after a miscarriage. People touched by a miscarriage may find themselves experiencing all the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of grief: nausea, fatigue, aches and pains, anxiety and depression. It can help to know that these responses are normal and tend to subside after time.
Other factors further complicate the issue of grieving a miscarriage. If the pregnancy was kept a secret from co-workers, friends or family, they’ll be completely unaware of the situation, and therefore unable to help. This may make it more difficult to find support and understanding.
People who lose a child often find they can only find a certain kind of support from other parents who have gone through the same experience. The same applies to miscarriage. Finding an online or in person support group can be key to the recovery process.
Grieving is always an individual process, and sufferers may experience varying degrees of denial, anger, and depression before finding acceptance. Some women find it most helpful to dive back into the process of trying to get pregnant, while others feel emotionally unprepared long after their bodies have recovered. Some people find it helpful to inform many people of what has taken place, while others prefer to keep the information within a tight circle. Some people are helped by doing something to commemorate the loss and honor the life of the unborn child. It is important not to follow anyone else’s rules about what to do after a miscarriage. Those suffering should follow their own feelings and do what seems right to them.