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If you have experienced a loss, or know someone else who has, you might be wondering how to cope with your miscarriage – or just what to do after a miscarriage has occurred.
One in four pregnancies is estimated to end in miscarriage and over 25 per cent of women who become pregnant experience at least one miscarriage in their lifetime, so it is important that women know how to carry on after a miscarriage, and how to cope with the trauma of a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Whether you’re experiencing early signs of miscarriage or coming to terms with a loss that’s already happened, here are some ways you can reach out for help and support.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of a baby, and most miscarriages happen within the first few days and weeks after you conceive your baby.
In fact, many women won’t even realise they’ve miscarried or know that were pregnant if it happens very early on after conception.
If a woman starts to lose her baby after the 20th week, it’s referred to as a pre-term birth and it may be possible to save the baby thanks to major developments in neo-natal care.
It is possible to miscarry any time up until the 24th week of pregnancy. If a baby is born after the 24th week and it doesn’t survive labour, this is known as stillbirth.
What should I do right after a miscarriage?
At this time, it is important to rest with your feet up and to keep stress levels under control.
A hot water bottle and paracetamol are advised for any ongoing pain relief. Ask your partner or a close friend or family member to stay with you at home – support is crucial at the time.
If you don’t have anyone with you, ring your doctor or hospital for advice and remember not to isolate yourself.
Do I need to go to hospital after my miscarriage?
Even if your miscarriage progressed naturally at home your doctor is likely to want you to check back in a couple of weeks or perhaps a month to ensure no complications, such as infections, have developed.
If you miscarry at home then you should see your doctor who will examine you and may refer you to hospital for a dilatation and curettage procedure, often referred to as a D&C.
This is where your womb is scraped to make sure it is clear so that your normal menstrual cycle can begin again.
At hospital they may also give you a vaginal ultrasound scan to check that your womb is fine and some medication to treat any ongoing pain.
What feelings should I be expecting after my miscarriage?
If you miscarry both you and your partner will need support to deal with your loss. Talk to your GP, family and friends and contact support groups who can all help you get through the experience.
If you had a late miscarriage in hospital, it may help for you to see and hold your baby to say your goodbyes. You may want to take a photo of your baby and organise a burial – but everyone deals with the trauma of a miscarriage differently, so you should do whatever feels right for you and your family.
It is important to remember that no matter what stage your pregnancy ended, you are grieving the loss of life and you should allow those feelings to be processed and vocalised if you need to. Stop to acknowledge the passing of your child, and know that losing a baby at an early stage doesn’t make the loss any less painful.
Take time to come to terms with your miscarriage, and make sure you surround yourself with support from partners, friends and family. Don’t isolate yourself from your partner or let distance grow between you – remember, they are experiencing loss too, and grieving together can help.
What can I do to move on from my miscarriage?
You may find it comforting to know that many women who miscarry go onto to have a healthy pregnancy next time.
Celebrities from Beyoncé to Amanda Holden and Lily Allen have all spoken about losing a child through miscarriage and then going on to have healthy children.
Amanda miscarried 7 months into her pregnancy in 2011. She called the time: ‘The blackest period of my life.’
Becky Dickinson, a 33-year-old mum from Surrey, explains how her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at thirteen weeks but she has gone on to have a family.
‘My miscarriage happened on a Saturday and I was due for my first scan on the Monday. It was my first pregnancy and I’d conceived quite easily. My boyfriend Uli and I had told lots of people we were expecting and I was 13 weeks gone so I thought the real ‘danger zone’ was over. But that morning I woke up and found some spots of blood.’
‘I went to our local hospital but they just sent me home saying there was nothing they could do. Later that day, I started getting cramps. They got worse until they were coming in waves. I was sitting on the loo when suddenly lots of liquid came out. It must have been my waters breaking although I didn’t realise I’d have waters by that point. I started bleeding heavily too. It was awful, especially as I realised then I was probably losing the baby.’
‘We called an ambulance but it took too long to arrive so my partner Uli drove me to hospital. The doctors there examined me to see if my cervix had opened then put me under anesthetic and took me into theatre. When I woke up, I was told they’d performed a D&C or evacuation to remove the foetus.’
‘It was an awful time for me and Uli. It was so hard not knowing why this had happened. I really wanted to know whether it had been a boy or girl too but the doctors couldn’t say.’
I’m really struggling to move on from my miscarriage, what should I do?
First of all, don’t blame yourself. Reject any feelings of guilt associated with your miscarriage – it is unlikely to have happened because of anything you did or didn’t do.
Even if you miscarried really early on in your pregnancy, at one or two weeks, don’t think you are not allowed to grieve – it is perfectly natural and understandable to feel upset.
Get closure – perhaps a small ceremony to say goodbye or writing a letter to your unborn child. It is especially hard when women feel like they become a mum but have no child to show for it, so treat it as if you would any other person in your life dying and go through the process of closure.
How long will I feel like this after a miscarriage?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ but make sure to keep in contact with your GP or family doctor and go for regular check ups if you feel your mental health is deteriorating.
The Miscarriage Association and Samaritans can help you with your grief if you need someone to talk to about how you are feeling.
When can I try to get pregnant again after my miscarriage?
Official guidelines and NHS suggestions state that women who suffer a miscarriage should wait 3-6 months before trying to conceive again.
But The University of Aberdeen tested 30,000 women and found that conceiving within this period actually increases the chance of a healthy pregnancy.
Dr Bhattacharya, who carried out the test, said this news is particularly useful for older women as the chance of miscarrying increases with age.
‘Women wanting to become pregnant soon after a miscarriage should not be discouraged. If you’re already over 35, I would definitely advise to try again within six months as age is more of a risk than the interval between pregnancies.’
Dr Bhattacharya also stressed checking with your GP before trying to conceive again to ensure no infections were picked up.