When you think about how many households have multiple children, you will find it hard to believe how many pregnancies end in early pregnancy loss. Unless like me you become the statistic, something I still find hard to believe happened.
In the US, about 15% to 20% of known pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen before the pregnancy is 12 weeks along or before the mother misses a period or knows she is pregnant.
When you lose a pregnancy, you don’t just lose a baby. You lose a piece of yourself and what could have been. Miscarriage is devastating at any stage of pregnancy or despite how many times it has happened before. I had 6 pregnancies and went through 2 consecutive losses (the 3rd was after 2 healthy pregnancies). Studies state that 1% of women will have repeated miscarriages, but it takes a lot of courage to get pregnant again after losing a pregnancy.
It’s hard not to live in fear of another miscarriage. Even if your body is ready to become pregnant again, it’s common to be scared to have another miscarriage. Every trip to the bathroom will have you checking your underwear or worrying that each wipe of toilet paper could confirm your worst pregnancy fear.
If you’re currently going through a miscarriage, you may have lots of questions. So we’re sharing the following information to help you through the physical and emotional distresses of miscarriage.
What are the common miscarriage symptoms?
Symptoms of miscarriage vary. Consistent with all my pregnancy losses, I felt a vibration in my head, behind my ears, for about a week before experiencing any other symptoms. During my 6th pregnancy, I experienced the buzzing feeling again and sensed a 3rd miscarriage was imminent.
The following are some of the more common symptoms of a miscarriage:
- Light bleeding that becomes increasingly heavy, possibly with blood clots and tissue
- Strong abdominal cramps
- Pain in the abdomen, back, or pelvis
- A decrease in pregnancy symptoms like breast tenderness and nausea
- Loss of fetal heartbeat (this can occur weeks before a miscarriage begins, detected by doppler or ultrasound)
I should also note that if you experience symptoms consistent with miscarriage, a different diagnosis is possible. Your doctor can confirm a miscarriage through an obstetric ultrasound (transvaginal is preferred if less than 8 weeks, fetal dopplers after 12 weeks), and a pelvic exam.
What can cause a miscarriage?
In my first miscarriage, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was my fault my baby died despite being told otherwise by my doctor and reading about it numerous times. I looked back at the workouts I’d done at the gym and things I’d lifted around the house and agonized over whether any of them could have contributed to losing my baby. Most times, the cause of a miscarriage is not known.
Here are some of the factors that may increase the risk of a miscarriage:
- Irregular hormone levels
- Incompetent cervix or uterine abnormalities
- Improper implantation
- Exposure to radiation or toxic chemicals
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- An advanced maternal age
- Smoking, alcohol, or drug use
- Certain medications
- Group B beta strep
- Severe malnutrition
- Diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes, kidney disease, congenital heart disease, and certain autoimmune diseases
How do you know you’ve passed the baby?
Vaginal bleeding may increase and you can feel your abdomen contracting more strongly. This can be within hours of when you started bleeding, or it can take much longer. Passing pregnancy tissue may be a sign of miscarriage. You may notice that the tissue becomes weightier and feel some pressure when your body is ready to deliver the baby. It can feel terrifying and final.
Depending on how developed the baby was, you may only see a sac (even possibly mistaking the sac for a blood clot), or you may be able to make out the limbs and facial features. Seeing what passes can cause incredible anguish but can also assist in processing what is happening.
In most cases, it’s possible to pass the baby and all the pregnancy tissue on your own. In addition to an ultrasound, an hCG test to track your hormone levels can help your doctor determine whether medical assistance is needed passing the remaining contents. However, the usefulness of the test decreases as the pregnancy progresses.
How long do you bleed after a miscarriage?
Bleeding can be managed similarly to having periods. To prevent infection, you are advised to refrain from using tampons during this time. For many women, bleeding lasts for 1-2 weeks; sometimes it’s heavier and with abdominal cramps. If a pregnancy was further along, bleeding could last longer.
How to deal with the fear of pregnancy after miscarriage
After having 2 consecutive losses, I was scared to have another miscarriage. I didn’t allow myself to get too attached to the pregnancy that followed. It was difficult to believe the pregnancy would result in a live birth, which caused me to feel even more isolated in my grief.
When I had a scare in the 2nd trimester, although it heightened my anxiety, I realized that whether or not I allowed my worry to take over, I would be heartbroken should I miscarry again.
To effectively deal with miscarriage anxiety, try not to allow fear to rob you of the joy of being pregnant again.
The good news is that your miscarriage is proof that you were able to become pregnant. I have tried again after miscarriage and failed. I have tried again after miscarriage and succeeded. I have also been too scared of miscarrying again and decided not to try again. Deciding whether to try again or is difficult, and only you and your partner can make that decision.
I still find it baffling that I’ve been pregnant 6 times, but I know my 3 kids wouldn’t be the same had I not experienced the losses. I’m also not the same, and that’s not all bad.
The keys to staying positive after miscarriage
1. Find a way to process your loss
You might feel isolated and think you don’t have anyone who understands your grief after a miscarriage. Grief is personal. It’s normal to experience feelings of sadness, self-blame, anger, guilt, etc. It’s always okay to reach out for professional help if you’re having difficulty working through your grief.
2. Affirmations after miscarriage
A part of working through my grief was to give myself positive affirmations. I would tell myself that my body was doing what it was made to do. I knew from high school biology that animals lose babies all the time in nature because the baby wouldn’t have had a chance at survival outside the womb. Somehow knowing that my body was recognizing a problem and protecting itself helped a bit, even if it meant breaking my heart.
3. Activities to manage grief
Indulge in activities that positively change your overall outlook and help manage the grief:
- Take a nap. Taking care of your body’s needs is a crucial part of healing.
- Keep a journal. For your thoughts and emotions as well as special memories.
- Make time to meet up with friends. Surround yourself with people who’ll support you.
- Join a support group online or in-person. For some, it helps to talk with someone who has also gone through a miscarriage.
- Meditate. Your mind is powerful, so feed it with positive thoughts.
- Take a shower. It may allow you to clear your mind briefly.
- Read a book or watch a movie. You may find comfort in your favorite activities.
- Exercise. If your doctor gives a go-ahead for physical activity, the endorphins released during exercise can boost your mood.
- Plan a short trip. A change of scenery can allow you some temporary distance from your loss.
- Volunteer. Helping others will allow you to focus on something besides your heartache.
- Take up gardening. Growing life can feel cathartic after losing a life.
After a miscarriage, when are you fertile again?
After our first loss, my ob-gyn recommended that my husband and I wait for two complete cycles before getting pregnant again. Every couple is different and has to deal with grief stages after a miscarriage, but my husband and I felt ready to try again before waiting for a whole cycle.
Unfortunately, in our case, that next pregnancy resulted in a second miscarriage. Following the 2nd loss, we chose to wait for the 2 cycles and had a successful pregnancy and birth.
It is possible to ovulate and conceive as soon as two weeks after the miscarriage, but your period may take 4-6 weeks to return. It’s also recommended that you wait until all bleeding has ceased before resuming sexual activity.