One Mom’s Story of Healing Physically and Mentally After Pregnancy Loss
The scars are on the inside of me and will always be there – the wounds of three miscarriages, babies lost between May 2006 and February 2007. During the time I should have been growing a healthy baby, I experienced horrific loss – children I desperately wanted, hopes smashed to pieces, babies I imagined holding but would never rock to sleep. For several years I spent my time either trying to get pregnant, in fertility clinics, pregnant, terrified of losing the pregnancy or recovering from a miscarriage. It was a period of my life that is blurred in more ways than one.
At least one in four Canadian women will suffer a miscarriage. Miscarriage is defined as the premature loss of a fetus or embryo before 27 weeks of pregnancy. While the hard statistic is startling, it doesn’t minimize the fact that miscarriage changes you. This week is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness week and we light candles to honour the babies that we lost; a decade later, with two healthy children, I remember each loss viscerally.
The first was a shock: at the 3-month scan, we were told I had lost it weeks before but hadn’t properly miscarried. I remember walking through the waiting room filled with heaving bellies and breaking down, realizing this was never going to be me. I wasn’t going to make it to the 9-month scan. The baby was gone and it was out of my control.
After my D&C I was desperate to get pregnant again and we quickly did: this second pregnancy was filled with fear over losing the baby – which happened at the 9 week mark, traveling in Ireland for work. As I began to bleed in a tiny Dublin bathroom, tears poured down my legs, mixing with the blood in the toilet. The third miscarriage, a few months later, felt decided and definitive. But this one – a low fetal heart rate, virtual bed rest for six weeks, was somehow the hardest. I was now part of a small percentage of women deemed “habitual aborters” – the crass medical term for recurrent miscarriage.
I often wondered if I should have waited between my pregnancies. Was my race to get pregnant a cause of my miscarriages? Did my body need to heal? What about my mental health? Had I gone through major depression after miscarriage that was left undiagnosed and untreated?
Physical Health After Miscarriage
A miscarriage takes a huge toll on the body, and there are physical signs to look for in terms of what is normal and what is not. You will experience heavier blood loss, more than an average period, and likely severe cramping. If you are passing huge blood clots, you need to see a physician immediately. You might also experience nausea and diarrhea – especially if you have a dilation and curettage (D&C – the operation that will remove the pregnancy from your body). It is also normal to experience extreme fatigue as your body copes with the changes.
Your body will either miscarry naturally, or you will need to assist it through medical interventions such as a D&C or taking medication that will encourage the body to miscarry. A follow-up appointment with your physician will be necessary. After my third miscarriage, a scan of my uterus showed that the remnants of the lost pregnancy were still there, and my OB/GYN prescribed Misoprostol, which induced labour at home. It was as awful as you can imagine.
Most studies show your body will be ready to try for another pregnancy within one menstrual cycle, and most women will go on to have a healthy pregnancy after miscarriage.
Mental Health After Miscarriage
We now talk about mental health, but miscarriage is still largely taboo. As a society, we push grief under the carpet. More studies are being done to research the impact of miscarriage on mental health. It is considered trauma, and between 10 – 15 percent of women experience a major depression and/or anxiety following a miscarriage. The good news is that for many women, depressive symptoms will alleviate within a year. However, for some, symptoms linger. If you have suffered a miscarriage, and are experiencing depressive symptoms (trouble eating, sleeping too much or too little, sadness, anxiety, stress and inability to perform everyday function), reach out to your doctor for a mental health assessment and seek treatment.
How You Move Forward
Miscarriage is loss. Reach out for support from family and friends, and others who have gone through or are going through similar experiences. There are many online communities that will help you through any stage of grief.
Physically, allow yourself time for your body to heal. A miscarriage is trauma to the body, and getting the right amount of sleep, eating healthy foods that will improve your mental health (like salmon, sweet potatoes and anti-oxidant rich foods) will boost your mood. If you aren’t taking a probiotic, start – abundant research ties gut health with mental health. Exercise will boost your mood, even if it’s just a walk outside.
If you have experienced the loss of a baby, please remember that you’re not alone. ❤️ Take time to recover – and take care of yourself first.