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Coping after miscarriage: Q&A with a Riverside nurse midwife

March 01, 2022

Women's Health Mental Health Wellness
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Miscarriage is the unexpected loss of pregnancy before the 20th week. It’s common but rarely discussed. As many as 20% of confirmed pregnancies may end in miscarriage. But if you experience a miscarriage, you might feel alone in your grief. You might also have a lot of questions but aren’t sure who to turn to for answers.

“Even though miscarriage often causes grief, it usually doesn’t come with the same kind of support you receive with losing a loved one. Many women feel like they can’t talk about it and have to hide how they feel,” says Cheryl Sharp, DNP, WHNP-BC, CNM with Riverside.

To help you get through your loss, we asked Ms. Sharp to answer some of the most common questions women have when going through a miscarriage. Hopefully, with these answers, you can feel a sense of calm and begin thinking about what comes next after your loss.

Q: What causes miscarriage?

A: First off, everyone should know that things like exercise, falling, stress or work do not cause a miscarriage. About 50% of the time, miscarriages are caused by genetic issues that happen by chance — meaning they aren’t caused by the parents. The embryo’s cells just happen to not have the right number of chromosomes needed to function correctly, and this leads to miscarriage.

Sometimes, a woman can have a health condition that increases her risk of miscarriage. These include diabetes that’s not managed properly, hormonal imbalances, substance use disorder and thyroid disease. If you have a chronic health condition, your health care provider can help you manage it so you can improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.

Q: Do all women need to go to the doctor for miscarriage?

A: It’s a good idea, especially if you were already seeing a health care provider for prenatal care. Even if you don’t need treatment, your health care provider will give you advice and support. They’ll also talk to you about what to do if you experience any complications, like an infection.

If you were further along in your pregnancy, your health care provider might prescribe medicine or surgery to remove any tissue remaining in the uterus. If you miscarry very early in your pregnancy, you might not need treatment, but you should still see your health care provider to make sure everything is OK as you may need blood work or another ultrasound.

Also, women who have an Rh-negative blood type might need to get a RhoGAM injection — a shot that prevents Rh incompatibility problems in a future pregnancy.

Q: How long does it take for your body to heal after a miscarriage?

A: It can take a few weeks for the uterus to heal. If you don’t receive surgical treatment, you can expect bleeding and cramping that’s similar but more severe than a period. The bleeding and cramping will be heavy for a few hours, and then it will gradually get lighter. The bleeding may stop after a week, or it may last two weeks or more.

You can take an over-the-counter pain reliever and use a heating pad for the cramping. Rest as much as you can. Don’t use tampons or insert anything into the vagina while you’re healing — this will help you avoid infection.

If your health care provider prescribes medicine for miscarriage, the process and healing time is similar. The only difference is, instead of waiting for the bleeding to begin naturally, you use the medicine to begin the process immediately.

If you have surgery for a miscarriage, you can expect light bleeding and cramping for a few days after the procedure, and you should rest for a few days before resuming regular activities.

Q: How long should a woman wait after miscarriage before trying to get pregnant again?

A: If you’re emotionally ready, it’s OK to get pregnant again as soon as your body has healed from the miscarriage. However, one thing many women don’t expect when they get pregnant again after miscarriage is anxiety about having another miscarriage. This is normal, and your health care provider can help you work through your feelings if it happens to you.

Why we should talk more about miscarriage

Miscarriage causes grief. And one of the best ways to deal with grief is to talk about it. Even if it’s just a five-minute talk with a family member or close friend, that can help you process what’s happened so you can move forward.

If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to or no one understands what you’re going through, consider looking for a miscarriage support group. Many individuals who have gone through miscarriage meet and support one another through these groups. Your health care provider or religious leader might be able to help you find one, or you can search for one online.

More tips for healing after miscarriage

In addition to talking about the miscarriage, the following might also help you work through your loss:

  • Give your grief time. Don’t let yourself — or anyone else — say that “you just need to get over it.”
  • Give your partner time to grieve. Share your feelings with your partner and understand that you both may experience grief in different ways and at different times.
  • In the meantime, take care of yourself. Rest if you feel like resting. Spend time alone if it makes you feel better. Ask a friend to come over if you need company. Even if you don’t feel like eating, be sure to still drink enough water and eat what you can.
  • Go for a walk. Getting outside for a quiet walk can help you clear your head.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They will only hinder the healing process.

If you need someone to talk to about miscarriage, the women’s health providers at Riverside can help. Schedule an appointment now.

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