Coping with a miscarriage

Give yourself time

Grief takes time. Especially if it's combined with anger, confusion and isolation. Give yourself permission to be sad, to grieve. Some people will try to offer advice: accept this if it helps you. Try not to shut out your partner and helpful friends and family.

Say goodbye to your baby

When we move from one phase of our life into another, it is important to acknowledge what was, and is no longer, by saying goodbye. This comes in various forms. Jamie-lee "had been keeping a pregnancy journal, so I wrote a goodbye. My husband read it and signed the book as well. The next day I felt different: a lot calmer."

Lia was able to say goodbye to her baby physically. Lia's "OB came in to see me and picked her up and put her in my hands. It was really wonderful of him, he kind of knew I needed to do it, I'm glad I did I would have regretted it if I hadn't."

Seek answers

It's important to get answers - especially if you have experienced more than one miscarriage. Roony found it helpful then her "obstetrician sent tissue from the D&C for chromosomal analysis and it was found that there was an abnormality incompatible with life. So I had a reason and also knew that this wouldn't affect my chances of falling pregnant again."

Heather did not blame herself for the miscarriage when she found that the cause was likely to be a chromosomal/genetic abnormality.

Support from loved ones
Heather told her family about her pregnancy at five weeks. "This turned out to be a blessing as we had acknowledgment and support from our loved ones, which made it much easier to deal with." Rebecca found that talking to others who had gone through the same experience helped. Don't be shy to ask family and friends to help with housework, shopping, or the care of other children.

Seek professional support

Lia was given literature and support from Pastoral Care. "She took the time to not only talk to me, but also my husband who was having a really hard time with it."

Some women find enormous benefit in talking to counsellors or psychologists about their experiences.

Providing sensitive care: advice for friends, family and care providers

Many people do not realise that miscarriage requires a full period of mourning and grief. It's important to recognise this period and validate the woman's experience. When Amanda was told, "It's meant to be, there was something wrong with it", and "at least you know you can fall pregnant", these comments made her really angry. She "just wanted someone to say "you poor bugger, I am here to listen".

Nicole's advice to family and friends is "Just listen. The best thing you can do is let the person simply talk when they want to, cry when they want to and not try to make them feel better."

Rebecca's experiences were upsetting as she recalls, "It may be an everyday occurrence for them, but it is not for us. This is the loss of a life, that we wanted very much, not just yet another person having a miscarriage. I would have loved for the staff to be a bit more caring and understanding towards me. Just because I was young and not married - does not mean the baby was not wanted, or that my partner was going to leave me."

Sally feels that some kind of recognition is needed: "Nothing was ever said to me about what happened to my child after the D&C. If you lose a baby later in pregnancy, they encourage you to hold it, photograph it, bury it, etc. I think there should be some recognition of that life even if it was so short. It was like the baby had never existed." This is also important so that parents can say goodbye.

Jamie-lee wanted information about when she could try again for a baby. She found, "the doctors at hospital were very vague. They said to wait a few months, but couldn't tell me why I should wait. Then they said if you fall pregnant straight away its not a problem!  This confused me." Consistent advice with good reasoning is really important.

Professionals can provide sensitive care by allowing the woman time to talk, debrief and ask questions. It's also important to provide choices wherever possible. Roony cautions health professionals: "Don't use the term 'abortion'. Even though it's the medical term for a miscarriage, when people hear it, they think 'termination'. Explain things and don't rush to see other patients. Provide a follow-up four to six weeks post miscarriage to see how everything is going. Consider investigating possible causes of the miscarriage sooner rather than later."

Lia said, "There was one nurse who stands out in my memory. She wiped my tears away. She stroked my hair as they sedated me, and she was still there when I woke up to console me. Nothing could have made it easier, but this lady cared." It's about compassion.

Heather's experience was eased when a nurse recognised her loss. "We had a dreadful experience in the hospital, except for one kind male nurse who expressed compassion for both my husband and I. His simple 'sorry for your loss' permitted me to cry and begin to grieve. A little kindness and compassion goes a very long way."

Alison recalls, "I saw two different GPs for my pregnancies, and sadly both of them seemed to lack the detailed knowledge of what is normal in early pregnancy. Even when things were clearly not going well, they were just too upbeat and optimistic." In contrast, "My OB was great - he is a man of few words, but said to me "I'm sorry you are going through this" which made all the difference to me at the time," Ed.

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