Learn about miscarriage and its effects on the body and mind.
What is Miscarriage?
Miscarriage, otherwise known as spontaneous abortion, is the most common loss of pregnancy. This condition is very common, with a reported 3 million cases in the United States each year. Many women miscarry before they are even aware they are pregnant or before confirmation from a doctor. While there are certain factors that may contribute to a miscarriage, the most common cause is abnormal development of the fetus. Other risk factors include smoking, drinking, advanced maternal age, disease, hormonal or structural abnormalities, or physical trauma such as a car accident.
Symptoms of Miscarriage
A miscarriage can develop over several hours, days, or even weeks. Symptoms of miscarriage may include spotting, mild to severe cramping or contractions, back pain, nausea or vomiting, white-pink mucus, passing tissue or clot-like material, or weight loss after steady pregnancy weight gain. Sometimes there are no symptoms, and a miscarriage is not detected until a doctor confirms the absence of a heartbeat. Women experience miscarriage differently; some may feel no pain while others may feel the equivalent of labor pain for prolonged periods of time.
Effects of Miscarriage
Miscarriage can be devastating and painful both physically and mentally. Women and their partners can expect varying challenges in recovery.
It can take between a few weeks and a few months to fully recover from a miscarriage. Often, recovery corresponds with how far along the mother was in her pregnancy before miscarrying. Because of this, most doctors and midwives recommending waiting for a period of time before getting pregnant again. Women may experience vaginal bleeding for up to a week after the miscarriage, light bleeding or spotting, lower abdominal pain similar to menstrual cramps, and breast discomfort. Pregnancy hormones may remain in the blood for one or two months, but women can expect their normal period to resume within three to six weeks.
Miscarriage and the subsequent bleeding can create a higher risk of infection. Women can take the following precautions to avoid infection: using pads instead of tampons, taking showers instead of baths, avoiding douching, avoiding swimming pools, and abstaining from sexual intercourse. Some women may be prescribed antibiotics by their doctors; it is important to follow medical instructions when healing after a miscarriage.
Mental and Emotional Recovery
Women recovering from a miscarriage can experience a wide range of emotions, including depression, anxiety, disbelief, anger, guilt, and sadness. Women may experience fatigue, trouble sleeping, sleeping much longer than normal, episodes of crying, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, or thoughts of self-harm. Some women may also notice strained relationships with loved ones during this process. As the body regains hormone balance, these mental and emotional symptoms should disappear as well. It is important to remember that there are many resources available to help in the healing process and that any of these emotional reactions to a miscarriage are normal.
Male partners may also experience emotional symptoms after their partner’s miscarriage. Women and men typically process these emotions differently, partly because of the variation in the bond they each feel with the growing baby. While women may be more likely to seek out support groups, men may choose active problem-solving or burying themselves in work. Of course, each couple is different and will handle their miscarriage experience in their own way.
Contact your neighborhood Texas Health Care Obstetrics & Gynecology clinic in DFW for more information on miscarriage and treatment options.