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Miscarriage: the signs, the loss, the emotions, and how to move towards a hopeful future.
The journey to an early miscarriage is often marked by joy and much anticipation.
Lots of time, energy and love is spent on preparing for the arrival of a new life – the nursery is set up with beautiful toys and accessories, friends and family are told, you start counting the days until your due date – expectation and excitement are in the air.
But, sadly, this joyful time can be cut short by a miscarriage.
Generally speaking, a woman’s body is made to carry, nourish and birth a baby at full term. However, this is not absolute and unfortunately a lot of pregnancies are not always successful. In fact, miscarriage rates are much higher than people think.
“One in five women, who know they’re pregnant, will experience a miscarriage usually within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.”
This rate is even higher because a lot of women who have early miscarriages aren’t actually aware that they’re pregnant to begin with. And, because an early miscarriage is very common, tests are only really recommended by doctors for a woman if she’s miscarried more than three times.
What causes miscarriage?
Creating a life, a healthy baby boy or girl, from a single cell is a very complicated process. A miscarriage usually happens if something goes wrong during this intricate stage and the pregnancy stops progressing.
A miscarriage can also occur if the developing pregnancy didn’t embed itself properly in the womb’s lining. This will result in the uterus automatically expelling the non-viable pregnancy – it’s the body’s natural reaction.
Miscarriages are also more common if you:
- are over 35; older women are more likely to experience chromosomal abnormalities during pregnancy
- smoke and drink more than three alcoholic drinks every week in your first trimester
- consume between three to five cups of coffee a day
- have diabetes, fibroids or thyroid problems that aren’t being managed
- are ill with high fevers
- take invasive early pregnancy tests such as, chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis.
What happens during a miscarriage? Early symptoms to look out for
The physical symptoms and stages of a miscarriage can vary widely from woman to woman. It depends on what has actually gone wrong in the pregnancy.
If you have one or more of the following, see your obstetrician or midwife immediately:
- Significant pain and bleeding
- Passing vaginal clots and discharge
- Severe abdominal pain
- Cramps and lower back pain
- Weakness in your body
However, it’s also important to note that being pregnant will make you hyper-sensitive when it comes to your body and what can go wrong – which is completely normal. And while you should be vigilant, take care not to allow the stress of pregnancy to cloud your judgement.
“Sometimes, signs that you may think point to a miscarriage are nothing to be concerned about.”
For instance, spotting or light bleeding isn’t necessarily the beginning of a miscarriage. In fact, this is very common and can affect one in four women who can go on to have a healthy birth.
Remember, having peace of mind throughout your pregnancy is paramount to your emotional wellbeing. So, even if you are experiencing something ‘minor’, reach out to your health professional as soon as you can.
What should you do if you’re having a miscarriage?
While your natural instinct may be to panic, try and stay as calm as possible.
- Contact your obstetrician or midwife immediately
- If you are alone, call any family or friends who can support you
- Monitor what you’re feeling or experiencing so you can be treated accordingly.
Depending on the extent of your bleeding and discomfort, your medical professional may advise you to head to an emergency department, the maternity ward, or an early pregnancy assessment service.
“Being in a hospital environment will make it easier for you to be monitored and treated to avoid further complications.”
Ultimately, it’s about taking care of you both physically and emotionally during this challenging time.
Can an early pregnancy loss be treated?
Unfortunately, once a miscarriage has begun, there is nothing you – or a medical professional – can do to stop the process. However, you can be treated for excessive bleeding and to avoid any possible infection. Also, if you do experience any blood loss, clots or pain, take comfort in the fact that these will all eventually settle once the ‘pregnancy tissue’ has passed.
The types of miscarriage can include:
- A missed abortion when a pregnancy has failed without any bleeding or other signs
- A ‘blighted ovum’ which occurs when a pregnancy sac has been formed without a baby inside
- An ectopic pregnancy when the pregnancy implants in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus.
Caring for yourself after a miscarriage
The effects of a miscarriage on your body can vary. Some women go on to have healthy pregnancies soon after losing a baby. While others need a little extra time and care before their bodies fully recover from the physical results of a miscarriage.
“When it comes to recovering from a pregnancy loss, there are no rules and no timelines you should be following. It’s personal to you.”
After spending several months nurturing and growing a new life inside you, it’s time to turn your attention to, you. The recovery and grieving process can be very challenging, that’s why you need to make your heart and mind and body a priority.
Practicing deep self-care during this time is so important. Your emotional wellbeing is particularly crucial during this time. While you may feel like turning off the lights and staying in bed forever, it’s vital that you reach out to family and friends for love and support.
Four ways to bring the hope back to your life:
- Start a diary.
Writing down your experiences can be a positive and cathartic way to move forward.
You don’t need to run a marathon. A light yoga class can be all you need to clear your mind.
This ancient practice can be a very soothing way to calm your thoughts and relieve stress.
Seeing a qualified practitioner regularly can help you face your grief in a healthy way. If you have health insurance Extras cover you can claim for registered psychologist visits, or, see your GP to discuss access to subsidised therapy sessions under a Mental Health Treatment Plan.
Women who take the time to stop and take stock of their feelings and their body usually make a quicker psychological recovery following a miscarriage. However, as with all major life upsets, it’s entirely up to you and how you choose to process the loss.
Give yourself permission to grieve
You are allowed to feel, to cry and remember. To be vulnerable and open with your emotions around people you feel safe and comforted by is not weakness. This is a necessary step in the healing process both for you and any affected family members. Take a look at this video featuring grieving parents talk about their experiences.
And if you have a partner, it’s important to remember they’re also grieving the loss of your child, no matter how early or late you had the miscarriage. Their feelings are just as valid and need just as much support right now.
If you’re finding it difficult to cope with the grief, there are lots of organisations you can reach out to who can offer invaluable guidance and comfort.
“Reaching out for support is a necessary step in your healing process and any plans you may have for future pregnancies.”
Looking forward to a brighter future
Losing a baby at any point during a pregnancy can be a heartbreaking, devastating experience.
The way you and your family choose to navigate this difficult time is very personal and no one can dictate how quickly – or slowly – you move forward in your life. In fact, there is no right or wrong way to grieve a miscarriage. There is only, your way.
If you are currently pregnant and worried about the health of your baby, these are normal feelings to have during a time in your life when your emotions and sensitivity are heightened. However, you do not have to bear the burden of your feelings without support. Reach out to your obstetrician or midwife today if you have concerns.
While it takes a village to raise a child, it can take just as much as love to nurture the baby inside you.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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