If you have experienced a pregnancy loss, first of all I’d like to say I’m sorry, you are probably feeling more sadness than you ever thought possible. I want to reassure you that you are not alone and to help others empathise with something they may not understand.
Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters. The first trimester is from conception to 12 weeks, second trimester 12 to 24 weeks and the third trimester 24 to 40 weeks. The bond between a mother and her baby can be strong from very early on in the pregnancy, with the changes in hormones and the happiness surrounding the knowledge bringing such joy.
Miscarriage is defined as the loss of a baby before 24 weeks gestation, this is up to half way through the pregnancy, and unfortunately as many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Talking about miscarriage is often considered taboo, resulting in the profound psychological effects of early pregnancy loss being brushed under the carpet.
The rollercoaster of emotions can include numbness, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, depression, and difficulty concentrating with other symptoms including: fatigue; trouble sleeping; difficulty concentrating; loss of appetite; frequent episodes of crying; broken or suffering relationships with family or friends.
It is generally expressed that a mother-to-be will get over a pregnancy loss but in my experience the grief, pain, fear and trauma of the situation can be carried subconsciously for decades and is often the root cause of unexplained panic attacks or completely unconnected fears or phobias that are more easily rationalised to others.
Research at the Imperial College London in 2016 supports how traumatic this experience can be. In fact they reported that four in 10 women reported experiencing symptoms of PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) after miscarriage. Nearly a third of women said their symptoms impacted their work life, while about 40 percent said it impacted their relationships with friends and family. Women also reported experiencing moderate to severe anxiety, depression and unwanted thoughts. Some women had flash backs, nightmares, and others avoided anything that could remind them of their miscarriage.
Women and men grieve differently; women are generally more expressive about their loss whilst men may be more action-oriented and may bury themselves in their work. This difference may lead to a strain on the relationship so please respect each other’s needs and limitations, as you work through your grief and begin to heal.
Healing doesn’t mean forgetting or making the memories insignificant, healing means refocusing.
As you work through this difficult time, you can help your relationship by:
• Being respectful and sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings.
• Sharing your thoughts and emotions by keeping communication lines open.
• Accepting differences and acknowledging each other’s coping styles.
Reach out to your family and those closest to you, ask for understanding, comfort and support. Allow yourself plenty of time to grieve and the opportunity to remember. Hopefully you and your partner can work through this process at home together, however if the experience was traumatic to you or the memories and emotions connected with pregnancy loss are effecting your health, relationships, work or enjoyment of your other children then seeking professional help can support you to process the experience.
Amanda Roe is a trauma therapist and mind coach who specialises in stress related illness. She works in Market St Clinic Skibbereen and can be contacted at 087 6331898.