Experiencing a pregnancy loss
It can be devastating to lose a baby at any stage of pregnancy. Even though you probably feel very alone, pregnancy loss is more common than you probably think — and it’s not your fault. This article aims to help you deal with the many emotions you will be feeling.
Experiencing a miscarriage, stillbirth, blighted ovum, molar or ectopic pregnancy can be very traumatic for both parents. Society underestimates how painful it is. Losing a baby is a death that you need to grieve, just as when you lose any other loved one.
Pregnancy loss can happen very quickly, and it can take a while to make sense of what is happening. You will need to mentally adjust to life without the future you expected. You may grieve not just for the baby you’ve lost, but also for your sense of yourself as a parent, and your plans and hopes for the future.
You will likely experience many different emotions and these might last for months or years. Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to grieve a lost pregnancy.
Feelings you might have
When you lose a baby, you will experience a wide range of different emotions. You might feel numb at first, or find it hard to believe it’s true. You might go through anger, sadness, confusion and depression. You might also have physical symptoms like trouble sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite, and crying a lot.
Many women say they feel guilty when they lose a baby, or they feel jealous and bitter. All of these emotions are completely normal. It can help to acknowledge all of your emotions but also to remember that these feelings won’t last for ever.
What’s important is to give yourself time to grieve so you can heal both physically and emotionally.
Finding out why it happened
It’s natural to want answers about why it happened – but the truth is, often no one knows why pregnancy loss happens. You might feel guilty or angry, and replay the events in your head to try to work out whether it was something you did. This is normal. Talking to a health professional can help you work through these feelings. Ask as many questions as you need to.
If you lost the baby when it was fully formed, an autopsy or other tests might be done to try to find the cause of the miscarriage or stillbirth, such as an infection or chromosomal abnormalities. This information can help you in future pregnancies.
Partners grieve too
Partners can be devastated by pregnancy loss too. At the time they might be busy helping you deal with the physical side of the pregnancy loss, and they might suppress their own grief. It might not hit them until much later, such as after another baby is born.
Some men might show their grief as anger. It’s important to understand that you are both grieving in different ways, and to treat each other with respect while you’re recovering.
Dealing with social situations
You will probably find that reminders of your lost baby are everywhere – Mother’s Day, other people’s baby announcements and pictures on social media can all trigger your sadness.
It’s a good idea to be prepared in advance and take the time to look after yourself. You don’t have to go to social functions for a while, especially if you know other people will be there with their babies. Consider going on holiday with your partner over Christmas, or attending family functions for just a short time. It can really help to remove yourself from social media for a while too.
You might find one of the hardest things is dealing with how other people react. They might not realise how painful it’s been for you, or they might not talk about your loss because they think it will upset you. Remember, other people can also find it hard to deal with your pregnancy loss, even health professionals. It can help if you are open and honest about how you are feeling. Be prepared for questions and have standard answers ready.
Don't forget that children need to grieve and deal with loss too, so if you have other children it’s important to explain to them honestly what happened, and to answer all of their questions openly.
Everyone is different and the time it takes to feel better can vary a lot from person to person. Many people feel like they need to try for another baby as soon as possible, but falling pregnant again won’t take away your grief. It may be a good idea to give yourself time to grieve first.
If you fall pregnant again, it’s normal to feel anxious. It’s a good idea to talk your feelings through with your doctor or midwife, especially if you feel like your fears and worries are taking over.
Where to seek help
You can talk to your doctor or midwife about where to get support.
The SANDS Australia website provides support for people who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death. You can call them on 1300 072 637, 24 hours a day.
The Pink Elephants Support Network website provides information and support for people who have experienced a miscarriage.
Please call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 if you would like to discuss pregnancy loss further.
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Last reviewed: December 2020