Healing Physically and Emotionally After a Miscarriage
In an ideal world, all pregnancies lead to a healthy and normal live birth. But many pregnancies fail long before the fetus has had a chance to fully develop. Coping, both physically and emotionally, after a miscarriage is a challenge. Nothing about miscarriage is easy or painless, but, fortunately, most women who experience a miscarriage will eventually go on to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
What Is a Miscarriage and How Common Is It?
A miscarriage is also called an early pregnancy loss. Miscarriage happens when a fetus dies in the uterus before it reaches 20 weeks of gestational development, but the majority of miscarriages occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester). It is estimated that nearly half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, but because many women do not even know they are pregnant when they miscarry, experts can only guess at the exact number. When it comes to confirmed pregnancies, 10 to 15 percent are likely to end in miscarriage within the first trimester. Once a woman enters her second trimester of pregnancy, the risk of miscarriage falls to 1 to 5 percent.
Physical Recovery After a Miscarriage
Your body can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to fully recover from a miscarriage. The most common physical effect of miscarriage is vaginal bleeding similar to your period, which may include pain in your lower abdomen that resembles menstrual cramping. The cramping should subside within a couple of days, but the bleeding can last up to a week after miscarriage. The pregnancy hormones in your bloodstream may remain in your blood for up to two months after miscarriage, depending on how long you were pregnant. These lingering hormones may cause you to continue feeling symptoms of pregnancy such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting and tender breasts until the hormones return to normal, pre-pregnancy levels. Your menstrual cycle should return to normal within four to six weeks after a miscarriage.
Is Medical Intervention Necessary After a Miscarriage?
The need for medical intervention after a miscarriage depends on how far along into the pregnancy you miscarried. Most miscarriages that occur before the seventh or eighth week require no intervention; the body will naturally expel fetal and other biological tissues on its own. For miscarriages that happen after the eighth week of pregnancy, your doctor may recommend treatment to ensure that all fetal tissue is successfully out of your body. Treatment options for miscarriage include medication or an outpatient procedure called a D&E (dilation and evacuation), both of which are designed to remove all pregnancy tissue.
Emotional Recovery After a Miscarriage
A miscarriage is a loss, and like any other loss, you may need some time to grieve. Ask friends and family members for support, or reach out to a support group that can connect you with others who have been through the same ordeal. If you aren’t feeling much of anything, that’s OK too. Everybody handles difficult situations differently, so give yourself permission to feel whatever comes naturally to you. You might find it helpful to remember your baby in some special way like planting a tree in her honor or holding a special memorial service. If you feel overwhelmed with grief, consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who can help you work through your feelings and begin the healing process.