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Coping with Miscarriage

Women who experience a pregnancy loss quickly learn that our society doesn't understand the pain of this loss. Well-meaning friends might say, "It was probably defective in some way so this is actually a blessing." Or, "You'll get pregnant again." Or even, "Lots of women miscarry; it's really not a big deal." Of course, any woman who has had a failed pregnancy knows that it is a big deal. Even if the fetus was malformed and even if she can get pregnant again, she still experiences the very deep pain of a shattered dream.

If you should have a failed pregnancy, it's likely that you will go through the typical stages of grief that follow the death of a loved one. These include (1) denial and isolation, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression, and (5) acceptance. Almost all of us pass through these five stages during times of great loss, though not necessarily in any specific order and sometimes through more than one stage at the same time, or by jumping back and forth from one to another. It takes time to get over this great loss, so be patient with yourself.

Let yourself be angry and sad if that's what you need to do for a while. But don't add guilt to the mix. Many women who have unsuccessful pregnancies beat themselves up wondering what they could have done differently to save their baby. "I should not have gone to the gym so often." "I shouldn't have had that glass of wine." "If only I didn't take that long car ride." "I should have stopped working." And on and on and on. In almost all cases, the actions of the pregnant woman do not cause the death of the baby. So give yourself a break. Mourn your loss, but don't blame yourself.

When the initial shock passes, you might feel better if you sit down with your doctor and map out a strategy for preventing a loss in future pregnancies. Having a plan will help you feel less helpless. You can also find help through support groups. In particular, you might want to contact a support organization called SHARE-a not-for-profit nondenominational, international organization providing support to those who have experienced the tragic death of a baby through early pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or newborn death. The SHARE website (at www.nationalshareoffice.com) states that their primary purpose is to "provide support toward positive resolution of grief experienced at the time of or following the death of a baby. The secondary purpose of SHARE is to provide information, education, and resources on the needs and rights of bereaved parents and siblings." You can also find excellent resources and links at the website of The Hygeia Foundation at www.hygeia.org. Log on and see how these organizations might help you through this difficult time. It is perfectly natural to be heartbroken over the loss of your baby. But there is a line between normal grief and depression that you must be careful not to step over. After two or three weeks of mourning, if you find that you're not feeling any better, be aware of the signs of depression that include loss of interest in usual activities, change of sleep patterns, changes in appetite or weight, increased use of drugs or alcohol, marital discord, social isolation, thoughts about death or suicide, and persistent feelings of helplessness, pessimism, guilt, bitterness, or anger. You might need some professional help to get you past these feelings. Tell your doctor how you're feeling and ask for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience working with women dealing with a pregnancy loss.

The pain of losing an unborn child runs deep. Give yourself time to mend and take extra care of yourself. Eat well, exercise (if your doctor says it's okay), and pamper your spiritual side with long walks, meditation, or even yoga. Give yourself time to heal and then move on with the memory of the lost child held dear in your heart.

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