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Pregnancy Loss and Bereavement

Pregnancy Loss

Each year, doctors and other health professionals learn more about the medical causes and psychological consequences of pregnancy loss.

Miscarriages occur in very high percentage of pregnancies. Doctors believe that women may miscarry between one and two-thirds of all pregnancies. In other words, they are far more common than anyone used to believe. Very rarely are miscarriages caused by anything the pregnant woman did wrong. Researchers have found that in at least half of all know miscarriages studied, the embryo was genetically abnormal and therefore not viable or capable of life.

A known miscarriage does not necessarily mean that the ensuing following pregnancy will miscarry as well. The chance of the next pregnancy being successful is more than 70 percent. If the cause of a miscarriage is diagnosed and treated, the chance of success can be 80 percent. Since the chance of success is so good, whether or not the patient is treated, many doctors are reluctant to begin long, involved and costly tests.

Many physicians believe that women can increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy by achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and by educating themselves about miscarriages. Because of the complexity of this problem, it is important to discuss with your physician any questions or concerns you may have about your miscarriage.

Coping with Pregnancy Loss

Grieving is the emotional response to a loss. It takes much longer than society recognizes; anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Researchers have learned that whether a woman loses a baby early in the pregnancy or at the time of birth, she grieves. Her partner's grief is often overlooked. The truth is that her partner may also grieve intensely, but deal with it differently.

Feelings of grief can be even more intense if the couple has had difficulty conceiving. For example, couples may also grieve after they have had an unsuccessful experience with the assisted reproductive technologies like IVF transfers or GIFT procedures.

When people grieve, they may experience feelings of shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, guilt, loss of self-esteem, loneliness and depression. People experience these feelings in their own unique way. It is okay to feel many or all of these feelings during the grief process.

Grieving is a way to heal emotionally from a miscarriage. Here are some positive steps that may help you in the healing process:

  • Recognize that your miscarriage is a significant and real loss. Find a way to acknowledge this loss: give a donation or gift to a special charity, have a memorial or religious service, plant a tree or give your baby a name.
  • Understand that you and your partner will feel and deal differently with the loss. Be patient and understanding of each other's feelings. Keep communication open.
  • Prepare ahead for such "reminder" days as your due date, holidays and the anniversary of your miscarriage. Make some gesture of commemoration such as lighting a candle, attending a religious service or making a memorial donation.
  • Seek support from others who have had similar experiences, through support groups and friends or by reading on this subject. Professional counseling may help you get through a difficult period.
  • You may find that one of the most difficult tasks after a miscarriage is facing the people who know you best. Realize that they may say things that are hurtful, even though it was unintended. Often people want to help but don't know how. You will need to let people know how you feel and what they can do to help you.
  • You may resist the desire to become pregnant again right away. Counselors often suggest that you wait until the feelings of emptiness and pain resolve through the natural process of grieving. Your physician can assist you in preparing for a future pregnancy.

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