Notes from a Portland Acupuncturist: Miscarriage, Grief, Healing

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Healing after an early-term miscarriage can be lonely.

Miscarriage is a difficult topic for most people to talk about.  Culturally we are truly stunted in our ability to talk about any kind of death or grief. When the grief surrounds the loss of a pregnancy, people seem even less capable of giving support to friends and loved ones.

 

 

miscarriage acupuncture portland
There is no time limit for grief.

 

If you have gone through a miscarriage, no one needs to tell you about the toll it takes physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It is one of life’s most grief-ridden events, and it is too often that you suffer in silence, feeling alone and hopeless. You don’t need to suffer alone: there are options for support and healing.

 

It is not uncommon to have a miscarriage at some point during your childbearing years. Estimates are that as many as 40-50% of conceptions end in miscarriage. Most of these miscarriages happen very early on in pregnancy, when it appears as nothing more than a period that’s a bit late.  If you were not tracking your cycle or taking early pregnancy tests, you would likely not even notice that you were pregnant. These statistics are relevant, but provide little comfort when you are grieving.

I am a fertility acupuncturist — all of my patients are tracking their cycles. Most are taking early pregnancy tests. They notice every early pregnancy.

 

Once you pee on a stick and get a positive, even a very early term miscarriage brings on a bigger meaning and is harder to deal with.  Obviously everyone deals with a loss differently, and some women don’t have much difficulty moving past a loss that happens between 4-6 weeks, but it is important not to dismiss the grief that can be present with early term loss.  One of the things that can make a first trimester miscarriage difficult is the fact that you may not have told anyone about it, so now you feel like you also can’t talk about the loss.

 

The causes of loss in first trimester are varied, and are quite different than those that generally accompany later losses, and these can add to the confusion and the fear in moving forward. Often these pregnancies are considered not viable, so the implication is that you should feel lucky that it did not continue.

 

Because these losses are so common, concerns women have surrounding the loss and the potential for future loss are often brushed aside by medical providers. While it is true that one early term loss does not imply that there will be any future losses, it does not mean that the woman who experienced the loss is in any way comforted by that information. In fact, it can make future pregnancies more stressful.

 

Very early term miscarriages account for 50-75% of all miscarriage, and are often called chemical pregnancies.  They happen shortly after implantation, and occur right around the time that your period would have come or within the first week thereafter.  Again, these are pregnancies that often are not noticed unless you are closely paying attention.

 

But that is the point.  You were paying close attention. 

 

You took an early pregnancy test for a reason, and if you are reading this blogpost, it is because you meant to get pregnant.  Common outsider ideas about this type of miscarriage is that it is not a big deal, you didn’t have time to get attached, it happens all the time, it wasn’t really a baby yet, etc etc etc.

 

This completely discounts the loss.  

 

There is not a limit on grief.

 

It isn’t much different when the loss comes between 6-10 weeks. It’s early, so you feel like the time limit on your grief should be short. People expect you to come back to work quickly (if you miss any at all), and even your doctor tells you that you can start to try to conceive again right away.

 

Much of the grief from a first trimester miscarriage comes from the idea of who that baby may have been. As soon as you see a positive, way before the ultrasound comes, you begin to swell with possibility. You think about the future. You calculate the due date and think things like: Oh! A summer baby! That’s perfect. And even though you tell yourself to be cautious, not to get too invested, not to get your hopes up, you think about the nursery, the cute little clothes, the way that your life is about to change. And the love.

 

The love comes swiftly and without warning.

 

These are the thoughts that people don’t know about when a friend or family member loses a baby in the first trimester. This is why outsiders, and perhaps even your partner, may not understand your difficulty in moving through your grief. And this leads to a strange mix of feelings: a combination of grief, and guilt, and blame.

 

  • You grieve the baby that you likely already fell in love with.

 

  • You’re feeling guilty that it takes so long to get over because you don’t feel justified in your grief.

 

  • You blame yourself, because surely you did something wrong that led to the loss, or at the very least your body failed you.

 

All of these feelings are completely valid.

 

How to move through

 

With early term loss, it is still important to get support. Everyone is different, and there are no timetables for grieving. Some of you need more support than others. I often recommend a combination of acupuncture — an amazing and gentle way to help you move through your grief and to reconcile your emotions, nourishing yourself through food, herbs if needed, gentle exercise and rest, and therapy or use of support sites like https://reconceivingloss.com.

 

Great resources abound, but you need to know about them, and you need to realize that you deserve them. Don’t skip getting support because you don’t feel justified in feeling your grief so deeply or for so long. The earlier you attend to it, the easier it will be to find a place for the grief in your life. And even though your pregnancy may have been brief, your hormones still shifted in big ways, so at the very least some acupuncture can help your body settle back into its hormonal rhythms.

 

I don’t want you to feel isolated by your miscarriage. Reach out. Get some help. Share your story with someone. Give yourself time and space to grieve. You both deserve it.