Navigating Trauma from Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Understanding Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Although many choose not to discuss it, miscarriage is quite common, with many pregnancies ending before a woman knows she’s pregnant. In fact, 30% of women experience a miscarriage with pregnancy.
So, what is recurrent pregnancy loss? This term describes when a woman has two or more miscarriages. Approximately 1-5% of all couples experience RPL during their reproductive years.
Common causes of RPL include problems within the uterus, including inadequate blood flow or an irregularly shaped uterus, hormonal changes, and poor egg or sperm quality. The uncertainty of RPL can take a toll on couples, but with proper medical care, many women can eventually have a healthy pregnancy.
The Emotional Toll of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss
Most women experience intense emotions after each miscarriage. These feelings can range from overwhelming guilt to numbness and disbelief. Not only do mothers grieve for their own loss, but they may feel depressed over the loss of the dreams and expectations they had for their child.
As with the loss of any loved one, there are different stages of grief.
- Denial and isolation: An individual may spend hours researching the symptoms that led up to the pregnancy loss. Social interaction may feel exhausting, which leads to isolation from family.
- Anger: Anger toward others and oneself is normal during this stage. For example, being angry the health-care provider didn’t notice the signs and prevent the loss.
- Bargaining: This stage involves wishing for a successful subsequent pregnancy in exchange for living a healthier lifestyle.
- Depression: Many women who’ve experienced RPL feel they aren’t meant to be a parent and find themselves looking at images of healthy children and families in the media.
Acceptance: Eventually, it’s possible to look back on each pregnancy and understand it’s no one’s fault and the pain may always be there, but it’s easier to accept the experi
Seeking Support and Professional Help
Support and professional care with RPL can be helpful throughout the grieving process. Psychiatrists and therapists at Beachway can offer emotional support for those who are in pain. Individuals can also look to other family members and friends who’ve also experienced pregnancy loss or search for local support groups.
Many women feel shame about pregnancy loss and feel they can’t open up and share their experience, but there are many avenues that encourage conversation and provide support.
Healing and Coping Strategies
Sharing stories with others about pregnancy loss helps individuals know they aren’t alone, and the feelings of sadness and depression are normal. Allowing the grieving process to take its course can help an individual come to terms with loss. Self-care is also extremely important. Some helpful practices include:
- Spend time alone or with others.
- Schedule time for pampering, including a manicure or a massage.
- Take time for hobbies and special interests.
- Get adequate amounts of sleep.
- Focus on breathing techniques.
- Eat regular, healthy meals.
- Follow up with a physician for regular checkups.
Navigating Relationships During RPL
Women and men respond to the loss of a pregnancy and grieve in very different ways. It’s important to respect how one another copes. Communicating needs and emotions is vital during this time to help strengthen the bond and come to terms with loss. Planning time together, such as a special date night, long walks, and movie nights, helps create a distraction and reinforces the relationship.
The Role of Mindfulness and Mental Health
Mindfulness is one way to deal with grief and stress after pregnancy loss, and it can improve mental and physical health. Mindfulness is a technique that shifts the focus on the present moment while accepting current feelings and emotions through activities such as meditation and journaling.
Professional counseling also provides a space to speak openly about thoughts and feelings without judgment and criticism. It’s normal to experience a range of emotions with RPL, including fear, pain, anxiety, guilt, and shame.
Empowering Yourself With Knowledge
Knowledge is power when it comes to RPL. For anyone considering a subsequent pregnancy, learning the risk factors of miscarriage can be helpful. These risk factors include:
- Having two or more past lost pregnancies
- Being over the age of 35
- Substance use, including drugs and alcohol, and smoking
- Exposure to chemicals such as paint thinners and harsh detergents
- Preexisting health conditions, including autoimmune disorders, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes
Trying to have another child after RPL is a personal choice, and multiple treatment options can help.
- Addressing hormonal problems
- Medications to treat preexisting conditions
- Surgery to treat uterine abnormalities
Honoring Loss and Finding Hope
Honoring the loss of a pregnancy through remembrance and memorials can help with the healing process and provide hope for the future. There are many unique ways to accomplish this, including holding a celebration of life service or a memorial, planting a tree in the name of the child, buying a special piece of jewelry, getting a tattoo, creating a scrapbook, planting flowers, or lighting candles each year to commemorate the birth. Memorials provide closure and help build resilience, which gives one the courage to navigate through grief.
Supporting Others Experiencing RPL
When a friend or loved one experiences RPL, acknowledge the loss through empathy and support. Let them know you’re there for them, and ask what you can do. These simple phrases can open the lines of communication and encourage them to share feelings and experiences. Listen closely without judgment and show additional support by dropping off meals, purchasing a special gift, or offering to take over chores while they process their grief.
Learn More About Beachway’s Trauma-Focused Therapy
When experiencing RPL, one of the most important things is to allow time to grieve and understand that it’s no one’s fault. Every person goes through the grieving process differently and at their own time, but support from family, friends, and professionals can help.
For more information on how Beachway can help, contact us to speak to one of our caring staff members.