By Dr. Jon Barrett, Division Chief of Maternal and Fetal Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Losing a pregnancy can be a devastating experience for women and their families. As a high-risk obstetrician, I have seen firsthand the elation that ends suddenly with a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
Women understandably have a lot of questions about why this happened to them. They're also dealing with the physical and emotional pain that accompanies a pregnancy loss.
The reality is that as many as one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage each year in Canada. Early pregnancy loss is a miscarriage that happens in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, and most do occur within this time frame. Late pregnancy loss happens after 20 weeks.
I've seen women who have experienced a late loss or the death of a baby within the first month of life and they have gone on to have healthy pregnancies and babies, and there is no greater joy.
If I could say a few things to women who have experienced a pregnancy loss, they would be:
1. This wasn't your fault
Women often feel guilt, thinking a stressful event or something like their previous use of oral contraceptives caused the miscarriage. The majority of time, miscarriage is a random, isolated event and a cause can't be determined.
2. You're not alone
As many as 20 per cent of women experience a miscarriage. There are online communities, such as BabyCenter, that can help you connect with other women who have experienced a loss. It also helps to speak with family and friends about your emotions. PAIL Network also provides support to women and families who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy or baby.
3. Lots of emotions
After a pregnancy loss, you may experience a wide range of emotions. It often starts with denial; you may find yourself in shock or disbelief. You may feel guilt and wonder if you could have done anything to avoid the pregnancy loss (put this out of your mind -- there wasn't). You may also feel angry about your loss. This can include feeling angry at yourself, your partner, even your doctor. Lastly, you may feel symptoms of depression, which can include loss of interest and pleasure in daily activities, eating and sleeping habit changes and difficulty making decisions. Talk to your doctor -- they can help and support you.
4. Take time to grieve
Losing a baby can be tragic no matter how early in pregnancy it happens. Allow yourself, and your family, time to recover and grieve.
5. Babies and bumps are everywhere
I've had patients tell me that suddenly it feels like babies and pregnant women are everywhere after they've had a loss. This is a normal reaction; do not beat yourself up about it.
6. Schedule an appointment
If you're thinking of trying to become pregnant again, it's always good to make sure that your immunizations and general health is good. Book an appointment with your family physician. If you've had a late miscarriage and are trying to conceive, ask to be referred to a high-risk obstetrician.
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