Pregnancy loss is never an easy experience, but sometimes there are individual circumstances or particular kinds of loss which can make it harder to cope with. Here we talk about the emotional aspects of coping with:
Recurrent pregnancy loss
If you have experienced repeated pregnancy loss, you may have found it much harder to bear than your first or even second loss. It can be devastating to lose one baby after another and this can be made worse by feelings of guilt (“It must be something I did”) or sheer hopelessness (“I’m never going to be able to have a baby”).
It can be hard to cope with family, friends or colleagues who are pregnant or have new babies. What’s more, you may find that just as you need increased support from those around you, people find it harder to know what to say or how to comfort you.
Women and their partners are often desperate to know the cause of their miscarriages. You may have been referred to a specialist quite quickly, or you may have been frustrated by the length of time you had to wait, or the number of losses you had to experience, before being referred for specialist investigation.
You might have had investigations, only to be told that doctors cannot identify a specific cause for your miscarriages. That happens in about half of all cases. It can be very frustrating not to find out why you have miscarried but it is important for you to know that this is actually good news: with no problems found, you have a good chance of having a healthy pregnancy, or pregnancies, in the future without any medical treatment. You may still find it helps to have good support in another pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is one where the fertilised egg starts to grow in the wrong place, most often in one of the Fallopian tubes rather than inside the womb. Most ectopic pregnancies can grow to around 8 weeks, but beyond this the tube is likely to burst. This causes internal bleeding and can be life-threatening.
Ectopic pregnancy can be a very frightening and distressing experience for you and for your partner. Not only is it sometimes extremely painful, but you may have been completely shocked by the diagnosis – in fact, some women are not even aware that they were pregnant. Once diagnosed, it is likely that you will have been rushed to the operating theatre, with little time to think about what was happening.
Your feelings may vary a great deal in the weeks and months after an ectopic pregnancy. You may be very relieved to be free of pain and grateful to be alive, but at the same time be very upset by the loss of your baby, something that others don’t always understand. You may also be very worried about future pregnancies.
A molar pregnancy is one where an abnormal fertilised egg implants in the womb. The cells of the placenta grow very quickly and prevent it developing further, but the placenta keeps growing and pregnancy hormone levels continue to rise, so you will still have a positive pregnancy test result.
A molar pregnancy is often only diagnosed after the miscarriage has happened, during routine examination of the pregnancy tissue. There is a very small chance that the molar cells can spread rapidly and become cancerous and so all women with molar pregnancy are referred for specialist follow-up. If a cancer (called choriocarcinoma) does develop, the treatment is extremely effective.
The diagnosis of molar pregnancy can be very confusing, upsetting and frightening. It can be difficult to understand what has happened and very upsetting to realise that the beginnings of your pregnancy never developed properly into the baby you thought you were carrying many weeks later. Many women and their partners are very frightened by the risk of cancer and you are likely to need lots of care and reassurance during your follow-up.
We suggest that you read our leaflet Molar pregnancy (Hydatidiform mole). It clearly explains molar pregnancy and the follow-up process and also includes comments from women who have had this kind of pregnancy loss. You might also find it helpful to use our forum, where you can share your thoughts and feelings with others who have had a molar pregnancy.
Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 or 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is much less common to miscarry between 14 and 24 weeks and so late miscarriage can be even more of a shock, especially when many women feel that they are safely past any danger period.
The physical experience of late miscarriage can also be particularly distressing as most women will go through the process of labour and delivery. You may have to make difficult decisions about seeing your baby, agreeing to a post-mortem and about what happens to the remains of your baby.
In the days after the birth, you may find that your breasts produce milk, which can add to your distress. You may feel physically and emotionally exhausted.
Sadly, miscarriages before 24 weeks are not officially recorded by the Registrar, but it may be possible to have some form of certificate from the hospital. This would note your baby’s name, if you have given one, the date of the miscarriage and perhaps some other details.
You may find it helpful to read our leaflet Late miscarriage: the experience of second trimester loss. It includes information about the causes and management of late miscarriage as well as comments from women who have been through this experience. You might also want to visit our forum, where you can share your thoughts and feelings with others who have been through a late loss. There is a short story about late loss, entitled “The Anniversary”, in our Reflections section.
Whether you have lost a baby after fertility problems, or are having difficulty getting pregnant again after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, the pain of living with the double blow of pregnancy loss and infertility can seem almost impossible to bear.
If you conceived after many years of trying and/or fertility treatment but then miscarried, you may feel that this was even worse than not conceiving, even if you may be comforted to know that you can become pregnant. Or you might have finally gained the courage to try again after miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, only to find that you are not falling pregnant.
Either way, the future may seem bleak and it will be important to find support and care from people who understand the impact of this double burden.
You may find it helpful to read our leaflet Pregnancy loss and infertility. It includes information about the causes and management of late miscarriage as well as comments from women who have been through this experience. You might also want to visit our forum, where you can share your thoughts and feelings with others.