Sometimes the joy of a pregnancy is eclipsed by the trauma of miscarriage. But as Una Rice writes, there is help for you…
The greatest loss
The vast majority of pregnancies result in a joyful conclusion, a healthy baby. But in more than one in five pregnancies a miscarriage occurs. Just as each woman is unique, so too is the experience of miscarriage and the healing journey beyond. It can feel frightening, isolating and lifechanging.
You may not ever know why you miscarried. Perhaps you didn’t even know you were pregnant. An early miscarriage is one that occurs up to 14 weeks. Recurrent miscarriages are investigated, and you may or may not be offered treatment/surgery, depending on what’s found. Possible reasons for early miscarriage include, anti-phospholipid syndrome, a rare blood clotting condition (sticky blood), inherited blood clotting disorders, abnormal chromosomes in the baby, polycystic ovary syndrome, an infection like rubella or toxoplasmosis, immune problems, or an abnormality of the uterus. Sometimes, although it may magnify your pain, there is no reason, it’s down to chance and may be called ‘unexplained.’
Late miscarriages are also investigated. Again, you may or may not be offered treatment or surgery, depending on the cause. Late miscarriage, from 14-24 weeks, is thankfully rare, but deeply disturbing. By then you’ll have surely felt your baby kick and wriggling, you may have names picked or a nursery decorated.
Sometimes a late miscarriage occurs due to an incompetent or weak cervix (that causes the cervix to dilate too early), a one off or a genetic abnormality, an existing chronic illness (eg: kidney disease) or thyroid problems, a uterus abnormality that may be corrected through surgery, fibroids, a severe infection that can affect the baby or amniotic fluid, or an abnormality in the baby. A loss from 24 weeks on is classed as stillbirth.
Whatever the time, whatever the reason, your loss is deep and very real and how you cope is a personal journey. The Miscarriage Association of Ireland offers support to mums and dads. Deirdre Pierce McDonnell is chairman and engages with couples who have lost their baby at various stages and in various ways.
She says of miscarriage: “It can be a long drawn out process, or a couple of days or a couple of weeks, it depends on the circumstances. It can be complicated or straightforward. And then there’s the physical side – there can be period pain or painful contractions.”
The emotion that is paramount in miscarriage is that of shock. “The words ‘’there is no heartbeat” are the most mind numbing, shocking words you hear, especially if it is a missed miscarriage and there have been no other signs (such as bleeding) of anything being amiss,” says Deirdre. “Other feelings that surface can be guilt, anger, disbelief and hopefully acceptance at some point. There is no timeframe on how long you will grieve.”
Supporting each other
In the midst of the physical miscarriage, where the woman is obviously the main focus, the dad is often forgotten. “But it is his baby too,” says Deirdre. “And I suggest that in the hospital ask can your partner be present if and where possible and be involved in the discussion about what treatment and options are being given.”
“After the physical side of things is over, men and women often find themselves at different stages of grief. This can cause tension between couples,” Deirdre explains. “Just try and understand where each person is coming from and be kind to each other. There is no blame to be laid anywhere.”
Hope for the future
A miscarriage can trigger a sense of fear for future pregnancies. Depending on circumstances and the number and type of miscarriage, it may warrant further medical investigation, or you may be encouraged to simply try again.
The “One hopes that a sympathetic ‘’I am sorry for the loss of your baby’’ would be the first words that a doctor, nurse or GP would say to a couple who have just lost their baby,” says Deirdre. “This can be followed up with some literature such as our information book and practical advice as to what might be the treatment of the miscarriage, for instance, wait for nature to take its course, or a D & C.”
You won’t ever forget your miscarriage. There are always reminders of your precious loss. Dates on the calendar, a fall of snow, an anniversary or birthday, or friends who were pregnant at the same time and went on to have a baby. But remembering is important, whatever way you chose to do it. You might release a balloon on an important day, or bake a cake, light a candle, talk to a friend. Whatever you decide to do, it’s okay. Vitally, it is never too late to reach out for help if you can’t cope with your sadness.
“Some people contact the Association immediately when they get the news as they have questions as to what might happen next or alternatively it can be months or even years after when the support from family and friends has maybe waned, but the feelings of isolation are still there and there is a need to reach out to people who have been through similar experiences,” says Deirdre.
“Remembrance is a big part of giving support and of the healing process. The Association has baby remembrance blessings, book marks and our logo as a pin which we can send out to people. Also an entry can be made in our Book of Remembrance.” Poignantly, the Association’s logo is of a little leaf falling from a tree, representing the baby who you will always hold dear in your heart.
For further information:
The Miscarriage Association of Ireland
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