Miscarriage despite being common and widespread can be a heart-breaking experience. A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy up to and including 19 weeks gestation (a loss from 20 weeks on is defined as a stillbirth). One in five pregnancies end before week 20 with most of those losses occurring in the first 12 weeks.
Miscarriage can have a significant impact both psychologically and physically which is not always recognised or understood by family, friends, colleagues or the broader community. If the miscarriage is perceived as traumatic symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression can arise for several months afterwards. Sometimes, medical treatment, tests and recovery time are needed before trying for another baby.
Miscarriage can trigger overwhelming emotion often followed by a search for a cause and a need to find some meaning.
Common experiences after miscarriage
Common experiences can include:
- Being irritable, angry or withdrawn.
- Mixed emotions towards others who are pregnant.
- Worries and fears about future pregnancies.
- Physical concerns.
- Difficulty making sense of what happened.
- Emotional decisions about how the baby will be commemorated and honoured.
- Concern about the effect of the loss on other children in the family.
- Frustration if there is a delay before attempting to conceive again.
After a miscarriage
Parents can sometimes be given different options about how to manage a miscarriage, depending on the circumstances and how many weeks they are into the pregnancy.
Recurrent miscarriages increase the likelihood of medical issues that may require further investigation. If multiple miscarriages occur, parents often describe increased distress and effects as time goes on. The grief can be cumulative and complex.
Those who continue their pregnancy journey will probably be mindful of past losses and their effect. Relationships can be put under strain and couples may fear letting each other down and experiencing further losses.
The non-carrying partner can be deeply affected. As well as their grief and loss, they may have witnessed a loved one go through pain, trauma or medical treatment which can be upsetting and scary. They may feel helpless and unable to make sense of what happened. It is important for couples to try and be open with each other continue to allow each other to process their experience of the loss and support each other as best they can. Sometimes it is hard for two people to fully understand what each other went through. Seeking professional help can offer much needed support. If multiple miscarriages occur, the grief experience may be more intense, and parents may need more extensive support.
Parents may mourn the absence of a ritualised memorial service or mementos of their baby and often struggle with a lack of medical explanation for the loss. Sometimes parents don’t tell other people about a pregnancy in the early stages so when a loss occurs, it can increase loneliness and isolation. Finding the right supports is important.
Seeking help from a professional, experienced with grief and loss can be helpful as the search for meaning and adjustment to a loss can be a long process. Loss can cause relationship strain and couples counselling can be beneficial.
Separate to miscarriages about one in 80 pregnancies are ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy can be a serious event and needs prompt medical attention. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg develops outside the uterus and starts to grow, most commonly in a Fallopian tube. An ectopic pregnancy can impact the Fallopian tube and this may affect parents’ future options about fertility and conception.
Date of Last Review: August 2021