Have you experienced a pregnancy loss? Sadly, up to 15 percent, or approximately 1 out of every 7 pregnancies, will end in a miscarriage. The odds are, if you are a woman of reproductive age, either you or someone you know has miscarried. If you are trying to understand your feelings after an early loss, or wanting to be supportive to a friend or family member, here are a few things it may be helpful to know.
It’s not about how long you’ve been pregnant
A miscarriage occurs when a pregnancy is lost before 20 weeks gestation. A common misconception is that a woman’s emotional reaction to her miscarriage will be related to how long she has been pregnant. This is simply not true. A woman who experiences a loss at 8 weeks may be as distressed as a woman with a loss at 19 weeks or later. Due to modern technology and assisted reproduction, women are learning that they are pregnant much earlier and the bonding process may begin sooner. As soon as her pregnancy is confirmed, she may feel an attachment to her baby and start to dream about his or her future. The loss of the pregnancy then becomes the loss of the hopes and dreams that will never be achieved.
Social aspects of miscarriage
Most cultures and religions have rituals in place when a loved one dies. However, with miscarriage, there is no clear guide for how to make meaning of the loss and no prescription for how those around her can provide support. In fact, during this difficult time, many women hear unsupportive and hurtful comments about how an early loss was “for the best” and it is time for her to “move on.” This may cause feelings of isolation and despair.
Is what I’m feeling normal?
Shock, disappointment, anger, guilt, self-blame, sadness and fear are all commonly reported reactions to a miscarriage. If you are experiencing any of these feelings, know that you are not alone. It is important to take as much time as you need to grieve your loss. Talk to your partner, your friends and family about your feelings. If your ability to function at work or at home is being affected, you might consider seeking professional help.
Reviewed by Jennifer Lincoln, January 2019