After trying to conceive, you are finally celebrating a positive pregnancy test. You start to plan for your baby: Everything from the name to their first set of pajamas. You are ecstatic. When a sudden miscarriage occurs, it’s understandable that most women are devastated.
A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. Unfortunately, miscarriages are common.
According to the March of Dimes, up to 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. However, miscarriages only end 15 to 25% of known pregnancies. Bottom line: If you’ve had a miscarriage, you’re not alone. There are ways to cope and hope to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Even if you didn’t know the sex of your baby, the thought of having another human being inside of you made you feel connected and in many ways, you already felt like a mother. When you are abruptly disconnected, it’s important to recognize that different women feel differently and heal differently, and that is normal. Whether it was a planned or unplanned pregnancy or whether you were pregnant for 10 or 20 weeks, the feelings you have are justified.
You will likely go through different stages of grief such as:
- Guilt or anger
When a miscarriage occurs, many women think, “If I just didn’t do this, this wouldn’t have happened.” Some women replay their last week of being pregnant in their head in an attempt to find out what they did wrong. While it’s normal to have feelings of guilt, it’s important to refrain from blaming yourself. In fact, most miscarriages are random. That means there may not be a specific cause; it wasn’t preventable, and it’s not your fault.
The treatments that help heal the sudden loss of a baby vary from person to person, but here are some common therapies:
- Writing your feelings in a journal.
- Talking to a loved one about your feelings, especially your partner, who may also be going through similar emotions.
- Talking to someone who has also gone through a miscarriage. Since miscarriage is common, you may be surprised how many women can relate and share their experiences and how they have coped.
- Talking about your experiences to a therapist.
The grief period isn’t a set amount of time and it varies per person. It’s also common for the initial grief stages to pass, and then for the sadness to be brought up again. This is particularly true around special dates such as the date your baby was due or the anniversary of the miscarriage.
Announcing Miscarriage to Your Family
After announcing your pregnancy just a few months earlier, breaking the devastating news to your loved ones and friends is difficult. Remember that your friends and family will also be affected by the loss, and may want to reach out, but won’t be sure how to help. You can thank them for their support and tell them, what, if anything, you need. You may need a listening ear; talking about your baby’s death to someone you trust can be therapeutic. You may not be ready to talk about the situation yet, but may want company around you during this difficult time. Alternatively, you may wish to be alone at first, and that is fine, too. If this is the case, kindly communicate your need for privacy.
Ways to Remember Your Baby
After the initial grieving period, you may want to remember your baby and recognize the spot your baby has in your heart. Here are several ideas:
- Have a ring or necklace made with your baby’s birthstone (according to the month your baby would have been born).
- Plant a small tree in memory.
- Plant a small flower garden in memory. The time it blooms every year will be a time to remember.
- If you have an ultrasound photo, you can frame it to display.
- Pick a date to remember your baby. This can be around the time of your baby’s death or around the time your baby would have been born. Gather with family and friends to remember.
What is the Cause of my Miscarriage?
In an attempt to ensure the success of future pregnancies, many women want to learn why they miscarried. Unfortunately, most women will never know the reason why they miscarried, which can be frustrating. However, women that have failed pregnancies three or more times should try to investigate the cause with their doctor.
Most research divides the causes of miscarriage into three main categories:
- Abnormal chromosomes
- Endocrinological disorders
- Uterine abnormalities
More than half of miscarriages in the first trimester are caused by problems with the fetus’s genes, according to the March of Dimes. This means that an egg or sperm cell has the wrong number of chromosomes. However, this doesn’t indicate a problem with the mother or father.
Diabetes and Thyroid Problems
Diseases like diabetes, lupus and thyroid problems can decrease blood flow to the uterus and make it more difficult for a fetus to survive.
An incompetent cervix, characterized by a weakness in the cervix, can cause miscarriage typically in the second trimester. This happens when the fetus grows too large for a weak cervix to hold.
In addition to these three causes, research has shown that the risk of miscarriage increases as the age of the parents increase. Several studies have concluded that women above age 35 are less likely to have a successful pregnancy. A 2002 study in the Human Reproduction Journal found that fathers above 40 years of age also contribute to a higher risk.
How Can I Prevent a Miscarriage?
As discussed, many women do not know the specific reason for their miscarriage, so it cannot be 100% preventable. However, there are certain tips you can follow that could improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. Here are a few:
Avoid or Limit Caffeine
Women who had a caffeine intake of 200 milligrams or more a day were twice as likely to have a miscarriage compared to women who were caffeine-free, according to a 2008 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Experts are divided on this subject, but it’s best to err on the side of caution, after all, caffeine is a drug. If you’re a coffee fiend, try limiting yourself to one cup a day.
Stop Drinking & Smoking
The effects of drinking and smoking during pregnancy are now well-documented. As soon as you know you’re pregnant, ditch the alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs for the health of yourself and your baby.
Researchers have not come to a decisive conclusion on whether stress can cause miscarriage. A 2006 study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that women who were stressed were three times more likely to have a miscarriage within the first three weeks of pregnancy. However, at such an early stage, the women studied didn’t realize they were pregnant.
While many experts do not agree, it’s not a bad idea to be cautious and aim to improve relaxation. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, massage and reflexology can help. You can also reduce stress by going easy on yourself. Realize that you’re pregnant, and that you don’t have to do it all yourself. It’s okay to accept help from your partner.
Remember that most women are stressed during pregnancy and to some degree, that’s normal. If you were stressed and had a miscarriage, it is not necessarily the cause, so don’t blame yourself.
If you have had a couple of miscarriages and you have talked to your doctor about them, it’s likely that you know the cause. In that case, preventing another miscarriage can be easier.
For example, if you’ve had reoccurring miscarriages and your doctor has ruled the cause to be an incompetent cervix, a procedure called cerclage can be performed. Next time you’re pregnant, your doctor can put a stitch in your cervix to keep it closed until delivery.
If you have thyroid problems or diabetes, controlling these diseases could be key to having a successful pregnancy. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and make the necessary lifestyle changes to improve these diseases.
When Can I Try to Conceive Again?
Women who have had a miscarriage will typically get their period after 4 to 6 weeks. After this point, you are safe to try again. However, talk to your doctor about what is right for you and to rule out any possible causes.
It’s also important to note that just because it’s safe to conceive, doesn’t mean you’re ready. You may still be dealing with grief after the loss of a baby and may not be emotionally ready to conceive yet. It’s okay to take time to heal. The decision to try to conceive again is a personal choice between you and your partner. Talk to your partner and make sure that you are both comfortable before trying.
The good news is that just because you’ve had one miscarriage, or even two, doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with you or your partner. Only about 5% of women trying to conceive have two consecutive miscarriages, according to a 2015 study in the Postgraduate Medical Journal. Remember, miscarriage is common and your dream to experience the miracle of birth is still possible and likely!
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