Miscarriage is common within the first 23 weeks of a pregnancy and is one of the things that expectant mothers generally worry about. It can occur for a number of reasons, for example, the presence of abnormal chromosomes in the baby or, in later miscarriages, health problems encountered by the mother. Often times, there will be no recognisable reason for it. For most mothers, a miscarriage is a one off event, however distressing, and it usually doesn’t mean they won’t be able to have children in the future.
While expectant mothers can do a lot to make sure the health of their baby is maintained during pregnancy, such as giving up alcohol or smoking, the majority of cases where a miscarriage occurs are not preventable. It’s worth noting that miscarriages are actually fairly common, affecting about 1 in 6 of pregnancies.
Spotting a Miscarriage
The symptoms of a miscarriage are vaginal bleeding that is normally followed by stomach cramps or pain in the lower part of the abdomen. If you have these, you need to go to your GP or midwife as soon as possible. They will give you an ultrasound scan to determine whether there is a problem such as miscarriage.
In the majority of miscarriages, the tissue from the pregnancy will pass out of the body naturally but sometimes mothers will be given medication to help the process or even a small medical procedure. A miscarriage is rarely life threatening to the mother and the main issue is how to cope with the aftermath.
For mothers and their partners, as well as the surrounding family and friends, this can be a highly emotional event and have a profound impact. There is plenty of support available from midwives and other health care professionals but there are also dedicated support groups that can help families come to terms with this traumatic event.
Some people will see a miscarriage as a biological event and come to terms with it pretty quickly. Others may have a deeper bond already with their unborn child and want to have a remembrance or formal burial service. Unlike stillbirths which occur later in a pregnancy, no certificate of death needs to be issued, although many hospitals nowadays can issue one for families that want one. For many people, having a remembrance ceremony can help to come to terms with their loss and cope with their emotions.
The Emotional Impact of Miscarriage
Many will go through a period of bereavement and like most grieving, people react in different ways. Some will come to terms with the miscarriage in a couple of weeks and start to plan their next pregnancy, for others it can take considerably longer. It’s not just the mother that will be affected in this way, the father too can be suffering from trauma. There may be feelings of guilt, compounded by the shock of the miscarriage, which can lead to loss of self-confidence. In more severe cases, it can lead to periods of anxiety and depression that may need further help and treatment.
All these are perfectly natural responses and you shouldn’t be ashamed or feel that you have failed in some way if you do have difficulty coping. You should seek support as much as possible, either from friends and family or from groups set up by those who have suffered from a miscarriage.
There is counselling available in most areas when a miscarriage has occurred and, if you feel you have a problem, or think that your partner is struggling to cope, then taking advantage of it is important. Another choice is to join a support group where you can talk with mothers and fathers who have been through a similar experience. It’s important to know that you are not alone and, more importantly, you are not to blame. Most women go on to recover from a miscarriage and then have a successful pregnancy.