Most sources will state that the rate of miscarriage (pregnancy loss before 20 weeks) is between 10-20% of known pregnancies, with HealthLinkBC saying that 1 in 6 women who know they are pregnant will have a miscarriage. It sucks. It’s not pleasant. It’s not nice.
Because it is in my screener questions for initial exams with new patients, it is not an uncommon brief conversation in the run of my day. It really is very common. However, when it happens to you or to someone who is close to you, it still hurts. If you are in the throws of that turmoil now, or if you are still hurting because of a pregnancy loss years ago, here is my brief message to you.
- It’s not your fault. You did not do anything to deserve this and you are not to blame. Obviously, there are known causes of miscarriages, which are usually quite dramatic and not to be ignored. However, the VAST majority are not a result of any physical or moral wrongdoing on your behalf.
- There doesn’t have to be a reason. Followup on my first point. The first question most women will ask is “Why?”. This is a very reasonable question, so I want to answer it. The answer is: I don’t know. Most of the time, no one knows the reason. Avoid the rabbit hole of retracing your steps while telling yourself a tall tale of everything that may have impacted your pregnancy in some way. That is a dangerous path.
- Sometimes, there’s a reason. This sounds contradictory but hang in there with me. Even though we don’t always know the cause of each individual pregnancy loss, the body often knows something we don’t. If there was a problem with implantation or early development, your body is going to choose to save its resources to invest in a pregnancy that has a better chance of success. We can (and should) respect that innate wisdom.
- Be gentle with yourself. Not only emotionally, but physically too. A miscarriage can take anywhere from days to weeks. You don’t have to tough it through. Take some time off work. Lay low. Lower your expectations and demands on yourself. Allow your body to go through its process or seek medical help if you need it.
- Having a miscarriage does not mean you can’t have a baby! Most causes of miscarriage will have absolutely no impact on your future capacity to carry a healthy child to term. According to the Mayo Clinic, only about 1% of women will have two or more miscarriage and some sources even say that your fertility is increased in the months following. The point is, this is not all of your hopes and dreams being dashed against the rocks like a shipwreck. It is a low point, today, but there are many more bright days to come.
- Take your time. Most medical professionals will recommend at least one regular cycle before trying again. Many traditional medicines will actually suggest 3 to 6 cycles to give your body and hormones a chance to fully get back into balance. Regardless of the recommendation, avoid the temptation to rush into the next pregnancy because you want to move on without thinking about it or because you are embarrassed. Even if your pregnancy did not progress past 20 weeks, that first trimester is still very taxing on your body! Take time to recover – physically, chemically, and emotionally.
- Grieve. Seriously. Even if you are a headstrong, logical woman and you know and can tell yourself everything I said above, you still need to grieve. It does not take long as an expectant mom to create an entire life around the little one growing inside of you. Grieve that loss. It’s part of the healing process and will help you prepare for the great things to come.
Full Disclosure: I have not been through a miscarriage personally, but I have grieved through pregnancy loss with patients and with people I love. I hope that my notes here do not accidentally offend anyone and that they are at least helpful to some.
If you have suffered through many and repeated miscarriages, then you should not ignore this. You need to investigate further to figure out what is going on with your chemistry and what to do about it. I would strongly suggest seeking professional and medical guidance rather than suffering along in silence.
I would be remiss if I blogged only about the happy stuff and wonderful aspects of being a mom and a family health practitioner. I think there is something to learn from acknowledging these losses. In some ways, I believe that these darker moments do help us, if we allow them, to appreciate the beauty in life and not take for granted the millions of miracles involved in building and bringing into the world a healthy baby.