The experience of late miscarriage, also called second trimester loss, can come as a huge shock.
Most miscarriages happen in the first 12 or 13 weeks of pregnancy. It is much less usual to miscarry after 13 weeks, when many woman and their partners feel that they are safely past any danger period.
When they told me they couldn’t find a heartbeat, I think my heart stopped too. I was full of the joys being pregnant, only to feel I had been hit by a train head on.
The physical and emotional experience of late miscarriage
The physical experience of late miscarriage can be particularly distressing. Some women miscarry naturally, sometimes without much warning, and this can be shocking and frightening. Others have to have their labour induced before delivering their baby.
Whatever happens, you may have to make very difficult and upsetting decisions about seeing and perhaps holding your baby, about allowing a post-mortem and about what happens to the remains of your baby. We talk about these things here.
I had to make decisions beyond my wildest dreams. I was making funeral arrangements when all I wanted to do was to hold the babies in my arms and take them home forever.
In the days after your loss, you may find that your breasts produce milk, which can add to your distress. A well-supporting bra can help you feel more comfortable and a mild pain-killer such as paracetamol might help too. You may want to talk to your midwife or GP about medication to reduce milk production. Alternatively, you might consider donating your milk to help other babies, if there is a milk bank near you.
None of these circumstances are easy to cope with and you may feel both physically and emotionally exhausted.
Marking your loss
Many parents want to mark their loss in some way. You can find some suggestions and descriptions of what others have done here.
I sowed Viola heartsease seeds all on their own in a pot and when they flowered, they were so small and perfect – a fitting reminder of my loss.
Sadly, miscarriages before 24 weeks are not officially recorded by the Registrar, but it may be possible to have some form of certification 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.
Information and support following a late (second trimester) miscarriage
You may find it helpful to read our leaflet, which contains information about late loss and comments from women who have been through this experience.
In a 40 minute broadcast, radio presenter Susanne Courtney talks very openly about her miscarriage at 15 weeks: from the early days and weeks through to her son’s funeral.
Healthtalk.org offers a space where you can watch and listen to parents who have lost a baby between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
And Bill talks about his wife’s illness and subsequent late miscarriage and his feelings of loss and grief.
You might also want to visit our forum, which has a dedicated board for late loss and where you can share your thoughts and feelings with others who have been through something similar.