The Emotional Effects of a Miscarriage
While the physical effects of a miscarriage typically begin to subside within a few days, the emotional recovery can last much longer. Feelings of grief, anger and even guilt are common following a miscarriage, and may cause anxiety or even depression in future pregnancies. If you’ve suffered a miscarriage, it’s important to give yourself time to grieve—and to heal.
Women typically experience a mixture of emotions following pregnancy loss,
says Dr. Carly Snyder, a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist from New York City.
“There is a sense of promise and anticipation that accompanies pregnancy, and miscarriage ends this hope and excitement in an instant,” she says.
“After miscarriage, women grieve for the family they envisioned, for the baby of their dreams and for the mother they saw themselves becoming to this future child.”
Following a miscarriage, you can expect to pass through classic stages of grief, including shock, disbelief and confusion; anger and guilt; sadness and despair; and acceptance, says Dr. Snyder. You may ask yourself “why me?” or feel anger towards other pregnant women and new mothers. It’s normal to cry, feel despair and have a poor appetite, and you may need to take time off of work. The exact order and time spent in any one of these stages varies among women, but acceptance should evolve over time, says Dr. Snyder.
“This does not mean that the miscarriage is forgotten, but instead that a woman can appreciate that miscarriage is common and not her fault. She can then move forward with her life,” she states.
Self-Care is Essential
To help guide yourself through the healing process, you should first realize that you’re not alone in the experience.
“Actively discouraging the impulse to be alone can be helpful; allowing your partner and loved ones to be there for you is incredibly beneficial in the healing process,” Dr. Snyder says.
Writing in a journal or writing a letter to your baby can help you process your grief, as can naming the baby or creating a memory book of ultrasound pictures, she says.
Moreover, you shouldn’t feel guilty skipping out on baby showers and births while you’re recovering, as they can intensify your feelings of sadness, guilt and anger.
“Politely declining an invitation to protect yourself from the triggers of being around pregnant women and new moms can be a good idea in the short term,” says Dr. Snyder. “You can explain the situation if you feel comfortable doing so, or say you aren’t feeling well—this is in fact, true!”
Above all, remember that miscarriage is common and in the majority of cases, unavoidable. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 50 percent of women will miscarry at some point in their lives. It also helps to remember that you don’t have to suffer in silence.
“Chances are, you know at least one woman who has been exactly where you are now. Cry on their shoulders and let them help you through this process,” says Dr. Snyder. “Soon, you will feel better and can support another woman going through a similar situation.”
When to Seek Help
Following a miscarriage, many women begin to feel better within a matter of weeks. However, if symptoms begin to worsen—if you’re unable to function, eat or get out of bed, for instance— you should find professional help, says Dr. Snyder.
“If a woman continues to distance herself from friends and loved ones for any extended period of time, and if she feels disconnected to those closest to her, then she should seek help,” Dr. Snyder advises. “Ultimately, there is no downside to asking for help. The more support a woman receives during this difficult time, the better.”
Subsequent pregnancies can present their own set of anxieties, so make you’re feeling emotionally stable before attempting to conceive again. It may take months before you feel better, but trying to conceive while you’re still grieving can heighten symptoms of anxiety and depression.
“There is naturally a heightened sense of uncertainty and fear during pregnancy after miscarriage, but these feelings should be manageable,” says Dr. Snyder. “While a pregnancy after miscarriage is scarier than the previous pregnancy, the fear should not overtake a woman’s life. Ideally, she should still be able to enjoy the pregnancy and bond with her new baby-to-be.”
Jennifer Brozak is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh who has a passion for all things parenting and education. She contributes to a variety of local and national outlets and blogs about her family’s escapades at One Committed Mama.