Miscarriage, despite being common and widespread, can be a heartbreaking experience. A miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy up to and including 19 weeks gestation (a loss from 20 weeks on is defined as a stillbirth). One in five pregnancies end before week 20, with most of those losses occurring in the first 12 weeks.
Miscarriage can have a significant impact both psychologically and physically, which is not always recognised or understood by family, friends, colleagues, or the broader community. If the miscarriage is perceived as traumatic, symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression can arise for several months afterwards. Sometimes, medical treatment, tests and recovery time are needed before trying for another baby.
Miscarriage can trigger overwhelming emotion, often followed by a search for a cause and a need to find some meaning.
Common experiences can include:
- Being irritable, angry or withdrawn
- Mixed emotions towards others who are pregnant
- Worries and fears about future pregnancies
- Physical concerns
- Difficulty making sense of what happened
- Emotional decisions about how the baby will be commemorated and honoured
- Concern about the effect of the loss on other children in the family
- Frustration if there is a delay before attempting to conceive again
Those who continue their pregnancy journey, will probably be mindful of past losses and their effect. Relationships can be put under strain and couples may fear letting each other down and experiencing further losses.
The non-carrying partner can be deeply affected. They may have witnessed a loved one go through pain, trauma or medical treatment. It is important for couples to try and be open with each other, continue to allow each other to process their experience of the loss and support each other as best they can. Sometimes it is hard for two people to fully understand what each other went through. Seeking professional help can offer much needed support. If multiple miscarriages occur, the grief experience may be more intense, and parents may need more extensive support.
For more information on miscarriage and other types of pregnancy loss, please see the section on our website gidgetfoundation.org.au/about-pnda/miscarriage/
Posttraumatic stress, anxiety and depression following miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy: a multicentre, prospective, cohort study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2019)