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Lesson 4 of 5

Coping Emotionally With Miscarriage

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Coping Emotionally With Miscarriage

The data clearly shows that experiencing distress during and after a miscarriage is normal. The Farren study published by British and Belgian researchers in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology tracked this emotional distress. The study found that one month after a miscarriage, 25% of women suffered from anxiety, 12% suffered from depression, and as if that wasn't enough, 30% had signs of post-traumatic distress.

Nine months after the miscarriage, the numbers were still fairly high. Seventeen percent with anxiety, 5% with depression, and 15% with post-traumatic distress.

Interestingly, the rates of anxiety and depression weren't significantly different for people already with children, for those who conceived through IVF, or for people who got pregnant again during the study.

The only exception was that rates of post-traumatic stress were significantly reduced if someone had previous children or got pregnant again during the study. For people who then experienced another loss, the rates of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress skyrocketed. And when people got pregnant again, anxiety and depression followed them.

People with previous miscarriages were twice as likely to experience excessive worry or sadness compared to people who hadn't had another loss.

This is something we hear anecdotally all of the time—pregnancy after a loss can feel fraught with anxiety. There's also a real sadness that comes from not being able to experience the full joy of a pregnancy.

In another analysis of both men and women after miscarriage, 94% identified themselves as grieving parents more than five years afterwards. Most felt that they were to blame for what happened, and a third blamed somebody else.

They reported thinking about the loss 11 times per month, on average. Alarmingly, more than 10% reported having suicidal thoughts.

One study showed that men who had seen ultrasound scans reported more difficulties coping and more despair. Men also reported frequent feelings of helplessness and experienced higher levels of anxiety and depression than men whose partners didn't have a loss.

In a study of lesbian couples, frequently, both women reported extreme distress.

What You Can Do

There are some studies that show ways well-being can be improved after a miscarriage.

One study randomized some women to receive a session of cognitive behavioral therapy. Those patients significantly decreased their sense of grief and worry compared to women who didn't get counseling.

Another study looked at women who went to a type of cognitive training. The women who had the training had much lower levels of depression and anxiety compared with those who didn't do the training.

One study looked at social support in subsequent pregnancies and showed that women who received extra social support in a pregnancy after a loss had a much higher level of well-being than those who didn't get extra support.

This is all to say, we know that miscarriage is hard and that grief isn't linear. You might go from incredibly sad at one moment, to forgetting the loss at another moment, then feeling guilty for forgetting, and maybe circling around to being sad again.

But even though that grief might hit you for a long time to come, seeking help, from therapy or social support, will likely help you get through this really difficult period. Just remember, you’re not alone.