Certified Nurse-Midwife Lindsey Wilson offers practical advice on pregnancy loss and affirms that you are not alone.
Pregnancy and birth can be one of the most joyful times in a woman’s/family’s life, but what many don’t realize until they experience the loss of a baby is the sorrow and despair that it brings. About 10-15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and far more happen before a woman realizes that she is pregnant. Miscarriage is the loss of a pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation. Around 80% of these occur in the first trimester (before 14 weeks). Genetic problems with the baby are the most common reason for miscarriage and the chance of this increases as a woman gets older. Miscarriage might also happen because of health problems in the mother like thyroid problems, bleeding disorders, PCOS, or problems with the uterus or cervix. Sometimes an exposure to an infection or the use of alcohol or drugs may also cause miscarriage. After 20 weeks gestation, the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery is called a stillbirth. Approximately 24,000 stillbirths occur in the United States each year. Stillbirth has significantly decreased over the past 30 years due to advances in technology and is much less common than miscarriage. Stillbirth may happen because of problems with the placenta or cord, genetic problems with the baby, poor growth of the baby, exposure to an infection, or problems with the uterus or cervix. About half of the time, the cause of stillbirth is unknown.
If you are currently experiencing or have experienced the loss of a baby, my heart breaks for you. You had hopes and dreams that have come crashing down and are left grieving with empty, aching arms for a baby that should have been. Not only this, but you have to make a lot of decisions on what you will do next. If you have been told your baby does not have a heartbeat, your options for where you go from here will depend on how far along in the pregnancy you are. If you are in your first trimester, you will likely have the option to wait until you deliver the baby on your own or use medication to help you pass the baby, both of which allow you to deliver your baby at home. Your other option is to have surgery to help remove the baby. If you are in your second trimester, you may have the option to have surgery to help remove the baby (if you are not too far along). Otherwise, if you are in your second or third trimester, your labor will likely be induced so that you deliver the baby in the hospital. Your healthcare provider will discuss these options in more detail and help you decide what is best for you. There are risks and benefits to each option. Take the time you need and ask all the questions you have, so that you can make the decision that is right for you.
No matter what method of delivery you choose, how far along you are or if you deliver your baby at home or the hospital, you may choose to keep your babies remains and have them cremated or buried if you like. If your baby is big enough, you will have the option to hold the baby and spend as much time with them as you like. Strongly consider taking time to make memories with your baby. Touch them and talk to them. Take pictures of them and with them. Invite family or friends to meet them if you want. It is important for you to take all the time you need to say goodbye to your baby. Keep reminders and keepsakes of the baby like a sonogram picture, blanket, gown, hat or hospital bracelet. Consider making molds of the baby’s hands or feet. You will treasure these moments and items as you journey through the grieving process.
After your loss, you will experience grief. For everyone, even partners, this will look different. You might feel guilty or ask the question “why”. You may feel angry, cheated or extremely sad and all of these emotions are a normal reaction to your loss. You will never forget your baby, but it will take time to accept your loss and start moving forward again. You may find it helpful to talk to a friend or family member or attend a support group. This is a difficult time and going through it alone often makes it harder. Don’t forget to talk to your partner. They have experienced this loss as well and though you may both grieve differently, sharing your grief can be very healing. You may also consider seeking help from a grief counsellor, especially if your grief is severe or prolonged. Self care may become hard, but it is important to eat healthy foods, stay active and find ways to to take care of yourself. Find ways to honor and remember your child. They were your baby no matter how far along you were in the pregnancy. You may want name them, talk about them, have a stuffed animal or candle in their honor, bake them a cake for their birthday or due date, plant a tree or bush to celebrate their life, or make a donation in their honor. Acknowledging your child’s place in your life, no matter how long or short it was will put you on a path of healing. Remember that your child will always be remembered, never forgotten and forever loved.
Pregnancy & Postpartum Resource Center https://pprc.support/
PPRC operates a 24-hour warm line staffed by trained volunteers for parents who are struggling and who need non-urgent support. Individuals can call 913.677.1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and a trained volunteer will get back to you.
Still Birth Day: Offers great resources that provide support before, during and after loss in any trimester. There is also a link to find a local doula that can support you through the labor, delivery and postpartum period. stillbirthday.com
You Made Me Mom: A local support group that meets monthly to walk with women through the grief process associated with pregnancy and infant loss. They also provide a resource guide to help you navigate the delivery/decision making process. https://www.youmadememom.com/
Lullaby of Hope: Provides thoughtful gift boxes with hand written notes for women experiencing infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. https://lullabyofhope.org/
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Find a local professional photography who volunteers to come to the hospital and take picture of your baby and/or family. https://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/
October 15: The official website of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Provides support, education, resources and awareness for those who have experienced miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and infant loss. https://www.october15th.com/
Face of Loss, Faces of Hope: Allows women to share their story of miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. They also have a resource tab to help you find ways to memorialize your baby, find support, and list recommended books on pregnancy loss. http://facesofloss.com/
March of Dimes: Offers a booklet called From hurt to healing meant to help you understand and cope with grief following miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. https://www.marchofdimes.org/bereavement-kit-form.aspx
Share: Offers brochures on different topics related to grief and pregnancy loss, helps grieving families find local support and provides a list of other helpful resources related to perinatal loss. http://nationalshare.org/