How to Cope With a Pregnancy LossKatlyn Joy | 5, June 2011
Pregnancy loss is not a rare event. Estimates range from at least one in five pregnancies ending in miscarriage, to perhaps as high as fifty percent. This number would include many pregnancies which occur so early the woman didn't even realize she was pregnant.
However, for those who suffer such a loss, knowing how common the experience is doesn't lessen the shock or pain. Despite how common pregnancy loss is, few women are knowledgeable or prepared for it. Many don't know what to expect physically or emotionally during and following pregnancy loss.
Types of Pregnancy Loss
When the loss occurs early in pregnancy, such as before 20 weeks, it is termed a miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks, however. When the loss takes place after 20 weeks, it's referred to as a stillbirth.
Ectopic or tubal pregnancies result in miscarriage and happen when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. This condition will cause bleeding and severe pain and requires immediate medical attention in order to hopefully spare the tube and more importantly, save the mother's life.
Molar pregnancies are when the placenta develops into a mass of cysts. It occurs in 1 in 1000 pregnancies. If an embryo forms it will not reach maturity.
Many miscarriages result from blighted ovum. This is where the fertilized egg develops a placenta and membrane but no embryo. It is the cause of half of all miscarriages occurring in the first 12 weeks of pregnancies.
Sometimes the miscarriage is incomplete. This means the fetus has died but the body doesn't expel the tissues until weeks later or not all of them. In that case a D & C or dilation and curettage will be performed and an ultrasound done to ensure that the uterus is clear of all evidence of the pregnancy.
Understanding the Process and Reasons
Following a miscarriage, it's important to discuss with your healthcare provider what to expect physically in the coming days. Bleeding and spotting are common for several days or longer depending on the timing and the events of the miscarriage. Cramping may be severe and require medication. Your hormones may be out of control and cause a variety of symptoms including emotional ones.
Talk to your doctor to understand exactly what will happen, when and what should prompt you to call the doctor's office or hospital. Also you should ask exactly what is known about how you lost the pregnancy and why. Sometimes the answer will be vague at best. However it's best to ask and know as much as you can find out.
Certain conditions may contribute to a higher risk of miscarriage, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, hormonal issues, infections, and problems related to the cervix or uterus. Lifestyle issues such as excessive caffeine use, heavy drinking, recreational drug usage or smoking can be risk factors for miscarriage. Advanced age, pregnancy with multiples, exposure to environmental toxins and using an IUD at conception can also contribute to pregnancy loss risks.
Taking Care of Yourself
Follow the directions given to you by your physician. If you are to rest, then by all means rest without guilt. If you are free to resume normal activities, then do so as soon as you feel up to them. Don't try to conceive again until you've been given the green light to try once more. Usually that will be at least a month or two. If the loss occurred later in the pregnancy, then expect your body to need more time to heal.
Normal Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief you may experience after a pregnancy loss include denial, anger, guilt, depression and finally acceptance. You may breeze through some and get stuck in another stage. Everyone handles their loss differently and that's OK. Your sister may stay angry for weeks, glaring at pregnant teens on tv, while you may keep wondering what you did wrong. The important thing is to express your emotions and accept your pain as justified. Don't ever let anyone minimize your pain. You have experienced a loss and are entitled to your grief.
Tips for Healing after Your Loss
Choose when to move on, don't be pressured. You can decide when it's time to put up the crib or maternity clothes when you are ready.
Find a way to remember your baby. Naming the child often helps couples. Some will plant a tree or special plant in memory of the baby. If the loss occurred later, the hospital may take footprints for you. If you can, hold the baby and take photos. Create a memory page or an album if you can.
Express yourself. Talk to your partner, parents or friends. Keep a journal and spill out your thoughts and feelings without restriction. If you need more support, join a group that helps with pregnancy loss either online or at group meetings.
If you have trouble moving ahead, consider talking to a professional such as a clergyman, social worker or counselor.
Find ways to reduce stress. Avoid making serious decisions until you've healed sufficiently. Take walks, practice yoga or relaxation techniques, and indulge your bad days by taking extra tlc of yourself. You will likely have some setbacks along the way. Expect them and know you are going to be OK, but give yourself permission to take your own time in it.
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