Losing a pregnancy, how to cope.
Pregnancy loss is devastating, no matter when it happens or what the circumstances are. There are support services to help cope with the emotional impact of pregnancy loss and understand the grieving process:
Chilliwack Hospice Society has 1:1 counselling available.
Other sources of information include the BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre and BC Bereavement Helpline: 1-877-779-2223. A free, confidential telephone line that can connect you to grief support groups, agencies, and peer-based support.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. It is usually your body’s way of ending a pregnancy that has had a bad start. The loss of a pregnancy can be very hard to accept. You may wonder why it happened or blame yourself. But a miscarriage is no one’s fault, and you can’t prevent it.
Typically, the first sign of miscarriage noticed is vaginal bleeding. If this occurs early in the pregnancy, it may look and feel like a typical period. If you do experience bleeding or spotting, call your primary care provider. An ultrasound or bloodwork is required to make the official diagnosis of miscarriage.
If a miscarriage has begun, there is nothing you can do to stop it.
Once a miscarriage is diagnosed, there are 3 different options that the woman may be presented with:
Expectant Management: The first is just to wait for the contents of the pregnancy (or products of conception) to be expelled from the woman’s body. This may take up to 2 or 3 weeks, but usually occurs within 5-7 days. The pregnancy tissue typically goes into the toilet during a bowel movement or while voiding. The woman could have a small container in the bathroom in the event of the tissue wanting to be kept for testing or other reasons.
Medical Management: The next option is to take medicine to aid with the flushing of the contents from the woman’s body. This process typically takes a number of hours once the medications are given.
Surgical Management: The final option is surgery. This may be offered to a woman if there are concerns of infection or heavy bleeding. Although the woman may need to be in hospital for a number of hours, the actual procedure takes only minutes in the operating room. The Obstetrician will open the cervix and remove the pregnancy tissue.
Although not all providers (midwife, physician or nurse practitioner) have a formal follow up process after a woman has had a miscarriage, the woman would benefit by seeking care from her provider. By connecting with them, she would be provided with information and false assumptions could be addressed. In addition, support and resources could be offered.
Although often extremely distressing, a miscarriage is not an emergency in the context of needing to visit the emergency department in most situations. In fact, when women do go to the emergency for a concern of miscarriage, they are often waiting many hours to receive care. This can cause more unnecessary suffering for the woman. In most situations, staying at home and calling your primary provider is the best option which will diminish the frustration and allow for appropriate care to be received.
Approximately 1 in 4 women will have a miscarriage during their lifetime, most occurring within the first 3 months of gestation. This heterogeneous group of women will each live their miscarriage through their own experiential lens, although sharing certain common themes throughout their individual experiences. Common feelings associate with miscarriage include shame, uncertainty, dread, guilt, emptiness and lack of control. Some women may feel relief entwined within these other emotions.
Despite the frequency of miscarriage, the loss can be invisible and the woman and her partner may not receive the support that they feel they need. This emotional burden carried by the woman and her partner may be under appreciated by family and friends
Women who report receiving sensitive aftercare from various disciplines are described as having greater satisfaction after miscarriage and a decreased psychological distress comparted to those who do not.
A miscarriage can be distressing for both parents. Fathers often feel a range of emotions from sadness to anger. It is common for the father to feel helpless as he watches the mother go through the physical demands of the miscarriage. Sometimes, he can neglect his own grief and sadness as he tries to be strong for his partner. It is important to approach this sad time together as a couple, each with their own timeframe of healing.