Rule No. 1: Don’t Blame Yourself
Coping with a miscarriage is like riding an emotional rollercoaster. Whether the loss occurs early or later in a pregnancy, once someone has experienced the emotional high of attaching to a pregnancy and imagined life with a future child, the low following a loss is often emotionally experienced as a death.
Miscarriage is, unfortunately, quite common. While research shows that many people believe the chance of miscarriage to be around 5 percent, the truth is that an average of 10 to 25 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.
Despite the frequency of miscarriage, women and men who experience such losses often report a sense of suffering in silence. This is because those who experience a miscarriage may be afraid to share the news of the loss with their loved ones. They may worry that others will ask them what they did wrong: “Were you too stressed? Did you exercise too much?” Unfortunately, these questions are common following a miscarriage. Although meant to be supportive, such questions suggest the miscarriage is the woman’s or couple’s fault. They also come at a time when women and couples may already be blaming themselves.
Fortunately, research shows that things like stress and exercise do not cause miscarriages. Most miscarriages appear to be the result of chromosomal problems in the embryo/fetus. Although this knowledge can reduce feelings of guilt, it may also increase anxiety around getting pregnant again, because the individual or couple does not have control over whether they have another loss.
Healthy coping strategies following miscarriage are important. Consider the following suggestions:
- Allow yourself to grieve. Acknowledge to yourself and others that your grief may be similar to that seen in individuals who are grieving the death of a family member or friend.
- Be kind to yourself when you’re struggling, and ask for support. Treat yourself, and ask your friends and family to treat you, as though you are grieving a death. Have your loved ones check on you, bring you food and sit with you in your grief. Tell them specifically what you need. Although this may feel uncomfortable, many people don’t know what to do or say to help someone grieving a miscarriage.
- Don’t judge yourself. It is normal to grieve after miscarriage and to be anxious during a future pregnancy. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and everyone takes different amounts of time to work through the pain and heartache of loss.
- Reach out to your partner. If you have a partner, let them know that they can share with you how they are feeling. Sometimes partners are afraid to share their feelings for fear they will make your grief or anxiety worse. However, a partner’s silence may imply that they are unaffected by the miscarriage, and this too can be painful.
- Seek professional help. Make an appointment with a mental health professional to help you cope, especially if you are feeling anxious during a future pregnancy.
Angela K. Lawson, PhD, psychologist, Northwestern Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Medicine contributed to this article.