Columba at Ascot - Early Miscarriage Service
Psychological Adjustment After a Miscarriage
Miscarriage is a traumatic event involving both birth and death, and most women need some time to adjust to what has happened. Although feelings and reactions appear to vary greatly, the following list is a summary of experiences commonly reported by women after miscarriage. Any combination of these responses is considered by Doctors and Psychologists to be a normal part of coming to terms with what has happened.
i) Feelings of Grief and Loss
Grieving is a normal and healthy response to miscarriage. Emotions during grieving can be very strong, and often involve several stages:
- Shock and disbelief – (“ This is not really happening” … “It can’t be true”)
- Anger! – (“Why me?”)
- Guilt – (“Was it caused by something I did?”)
- Depression – (“I can’t bear it; the future is hopeless”)
- Acceptance – (“I am at peace with the memory of the miscarriage… I can focus again on my present and future”).
The grieving process tends to last longer for women who already held hopes and dreams about the baby. The feelings of loss can return briefly even years later, particularly after reminders, such as the anniversary of the miscarriage.
ii) Ambivalence or Relief
These reactions may be more likely if the pregnancy was to some extent, unplanned or unwanted. Some women feel guilty if they experience relief rather than sadness. Yet, relief may be the most honest and accepting response to the circumstances.
iii) Anxiety About Telling Others
Many women worry about how others will react to them. They may try not to talk about the miscarriage for fear of embarrassing other people. If the topic is raised, some may indeed respond insensitively. They may ignore the issue, trivialise or make light of it (“There must have been something wrong with it anyway”; “Oh well, you can always try again!”). Usually people respond this way because despite the best of intentions, they do not know what to say.
iv) Negative Reactions to Infants or Pregnant Women
Pregnant women and babies often act as strong reminders of the miscarriage, and can rekindle feelings of anger or distress. There can be a temptation to avoid places where such reminders are likely to be.
v) Relationship Difficulties
A miscarriage can put stress upon a relationship with husband or partner. The woman may be more upset than her partner may. She may lose interest in sex for a while. The man may find it hard to express his feelings about what has happened. There may not be enough mutual support to satisfy the needs of both partners. Most relationship problems are caused, or worsened, if the couple do not talk enough about the miscarriage and its effects upon each person.
vi) Anxiety About the Next Pregnancy
Some women may expect (or be told) that another pregnancy as soon as possible will help resolve the grief. This is often not the case. Waiting until the grief and distress have passed generally reduces the risk of depression after the next birth. It may also make the next pregnancy a less anxious time. Many women fear another miscarriage or worry that something is wrong with the next baby, despite medical checks indicating all is well.