A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy that happens sometime during the first 23 weeks. The majority of miscarriages happen during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, which is often referred to as the first trimester. Miscarriage often occurs with no warning, and often no medical reason can be found why it happened.
How common are miscarriages?
More than one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage which is around 15,000 women or 20% of pregnancies in Ireland each year, although the figure could be significantly higher because many miscarriages are thought to occur before a woman realises that she is pregnant.
Miscarriage is much more common than most people realise. This may be because many women who have had a miscarriage prefer not to talk about it to many people.
It is thought that most miscarriages are the result of random variations in the chromosomes of the baby. Chromosomes are genetic ‘building blocks’ that guide the development of a baby. If a baby has too many or not enough chromosomes, the pregnancy can end in a miscarriage.
So it is very important to remember that even if you took the best care of yourself during pregnancy, you often can’t prevent a miscarriage. Having a miscarriage does not mean there is anything medically wrong with you or your partner, that you did something wrong nor does it mean that you cannot have a baby in the future.
A miscarriage can have a profound emotional impact, not only on a woman but also on her partner, friends and family. If a woman has had an incomplete miscarriage and requires medical intervention and treatment this can also add to the emotional distress of a miscarriage. Due to the hormonal changes in women’s bodies they may also suffer also suffer from postpartum blues. Some women may even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from having a traumatic miscarriage. Sometimes, the emotional impact is felt immediately after a miscarriage, whereas in other cases it can take several weeks to emerge.
The most common emotions that are felt after a miscarriage are grief and bereavement. They can cause physical and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms of grief and bereavement include:
Loss of appetite
Emotional symptoms of grief and bereavement include:
Shock and numbness
Anger (sometimes at one’s self or a partner, or at friends or family members who have had successful pregnancies)
An overwhelming sense of sadness
Losing a baby is one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a woman. When a couple finds out they were going to have a baby and miscarry their hopes, dreams and plans are shattered for that child. They are devastated if they cannot see their baby or get to hold the baby, not having any mementos of their baby can also cause great distress. You may not have told many people that you were pregnant so sharing this distressing news makes it all that more difficult to share. Some couples hide their loss and hope all will just go back to normal. Those couples who share their loss with family and friends generally receive more support overall as people genuinely care when they hear such sad news.
Regardless of the cause or how far along the pregnancy was does not matter when it comes to the impact on a woman, we are all unique and our emotions and coping skills vary from person to person. We all grieve differently and for different lengths of time, it is important to try not to compare yourself to someone else or judge your partner on how they are grieving, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Different people grieve in different ways. Some people find it comforting to talk about their feelings while others find the subject too painful to discuss. Studies have shown if a couple do not address grief in the immediate weeks after a miscarriage it generally takes longer to work through grief and these can lead to causing additional mental health issues. Nurture Health Heath is here to support you in your loss and help you work through your grief over time.
Something to Remember
For most women, a miscarriage is a one-off event (known as a sporadic miscarriage) and women go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
Recurrent miscarriages (the loss of three or more pregnancies in a row) are uncommon and affect only 1% of all couples. Even in the case of recurrent miscarriages, an estimated 75% of women go on to have a successful pregnancy in the future.
If you have suffered a miscarriage and you and your partner are thinking about getting pregnant again you should talk to your GPshe/he will offer you specific advice and support. Some women come to terms with their grief after a few weeks of having a miscarriage and start planning for their next pregnancy. For other women, the thought of planning another pregnancy is too traumatic, at least in the short term which is all very normal given the circumstances of your loss.
Nurture Health’s message for all women & partners is ‘You are not alone, and it really is okay to talk about it’.
If you are worried that you or your partner are having problems coping with grief or your grief is overwhelming, you may need professional counselling support.
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