The emotional impact of second trimester loss
Experiencing pregnancy or baby loss after 13 weeks can be very shocking as well as deeply distressing. We talk below about some of the feelings you might have after second trimester loss.
There is no right way to feel after your loss. And however you feel, you may show those emotions clearly or you might keep them hidden as much as you can.
For example, you might be very sad and tearful, maybe a lot of the time. Or perhaps it doesn’t feel natural to cry, or you worry about upsetting other people. Maybe you worry that if you start crying, you won’t be able to stop.
Coming home from hospital, no longer pregnant and without your baby can be very difficult. It can be very upsetting to see baby clothes or other things you have ready for your baby, though you may find them comforting.
My husband put all the baby things away, out of sight, before I came home. He thought they would upset me. I got out the littlest baby-gro and held it and I cried and cried. It was sort of comforting, in a way.
You might recognise some of these feelings that people have described:
- angry – sometimes at particular people and sometimes just at the unfairness of it all
- jealous – especially of pregnant women or people with small babies
- guilty – wondering if the miscarriage was somehow your fault
- lonely – especially if people around you don’t seem to understand
- empty – a physical ache for your baby
- exhausted – finding it hard to do anything, perhaps not sleeping or eating properly
- panicky – perhaps with flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive thoughts
- low (depressed/hopeless) – unable to find the motivation to look after yourself or to concentrate on normal tasks. Not wanting to see other people
- anxious – about yourself, your partner, other children (if you have them) and the future. Or even worrying about very small things that wouldn’t normally bother you.
There is no “normal” timeline for grief. You may find you continue to grieve for your baby for a much longer or shorter time than you, or other people, expect. It may be anything from weeks to years.
You may feel as though your feelings are out of control – sometimes easing and sometimes right back where you started.
There may be particular things or dates that trigger those difficult times. You may be expecting them, or they may come out of the blue.
For everyone the experience is different. While you may never forget your loss, these feelings may ease over time.
It does get easier. When it first happens you feel like you are in a black hole that you can’t escape. You never forget your baby, but day to day life becomes more manageable.
Talking to others
You may find it hard to talk about what happened or how you feel. Or you might need to talk, to go over what happened again and again.
Finding someone who will listen and try to understand can be really helpful, but that may not be easy. It can sometimes be difficult for other people to fully understand all that you have been through, how you feel and how long those feelings may last.
Sometimes family and friends say the wrong thing, perhaps hoping to make you feel better. Some might avoid talking about your loss altogether because they worry they may make you more upset. Some people, sadly, just won’t understand.
To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of emotional support because I don’t think people are comfortable talking about it, or bringing it up in case it upsets me. I find that quite difficult.
You may find it helpful to talk to others who have experienced second trimester loss, such as by joining our online forum, which has a ‘late loss’ board. Our support groups, face to face and online, can also be a source of comfort and understanding.
For some people, pregnancy or baby loss may have a significant impact on their mental health. They may be given a diagnosis, like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression.
Others may not have a diagnosis but still experience symptoms that make life difficult for a long time.
Whatever you are feeling, you don’t have to bear it alone. Your midwife, the hospital bereavement midwife or your GP may be able to refer you for counselling or simply offer time to talk.
The charity Mind has excellent resources for anyone struggling with anxiety or depression and the Miscarriage Association has a range of resources that might help, including information about counselling.
You might find it helpful to read personal stories and reflections from others who have experienced second trimester loss, for example:
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.
I was really open about our loss and I think that really helped as when I wanted to talk about our baby, I could.
Loss can have a major impact on relationships with a partner, family and friends, sometimes strengthening and sometimes weakening those relationships.
Perhaps you don’t have a partner or close family and friends and feel like you are dealing with this alone. We hope that these pages will help you feel less alone and that you will consider using some of our support services.
Your partner, if you have one, is also likely to be grieving for the loss of your baby. But even if your feelings are similar, you may react in different ways or at different times. Your partner may set aside their own feelings in order to support you, emotionally or practically or both.
They may focus on being strong, not wanting to take attention away from you, especially because you went through the physical loss. This may make you think that they aren’t particularly upset. It could also mean that their feelings aren’t recognised and they don’t get the support they need.
On the other hand, their feelings might be different from yours. Perhaps they are disappointed rather than distressed by the loss, perhaps focusing more on the future. It may be that they are struggling with difficult memories and images, such as seeing you in pain and distress, as Dominic describes here.
Some couples find that going through a loss like this affects their relationship. Your loss might have brought you closer, but it might have created strains too, leading to tension and arguments at what is already a difficult time. For some people, sex may also be a source of stress, especially if one of you seeks intimacy and comfort while the other doesn’t.
After a month had passed it became more and more difficult to say the right thing. We would talk to try and resolve things, but to no avail. I began throwing myself into work, creating extra work just to pass hours.
Children and other family members
Your loss may well affect others in your family too. Even the youngest of children will sense when something is wrong and if they already know about the baby, they may be very upset by news of the loss. You might find our leaflet on talking to children about miscarriage helpful.
Sarah lost her baby at 17 weeks. She writes:
The feeling of sadness was overwhelming, but having to tell our son that his much wished for little brother or sister had died was truly the hardest thing I have ever had to do.
You can read Sarah’s story here.
Grandparents or other family members may also be very upset at the loss of their grandchild, niece or nephew. As much as they want to comfort you, you may find yourself having to comfort them, too, which can add to what you are having to deal with. At the same time, though, there may be some comfort in being able to share your sadness and support each other.
Some friends and family members have been amazing and very supportive, while others have not been so great. I know people find it really difficult to know what to say about pregnancy/baby loss, but I really appreciate it when people just acknowledge that our daughter existed.
Family and friends might find it helpful to read our leaflet Supporting someone you know.
On the next page, we talk about considering another pregnancy.