How long does it take to physically and mentally recover from a miscarriage?
A couple can lose a baby from miscarriage, stillbirth or at or after birth. Miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy; stillbirth is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The medical term for a miscarriage is spontaneous abortion. It can be a painful and traumatic experience for a woman to go through, and it is also hard on her partner who shares the loss and suffers as well. Both people are mourning the loss of a potential child, and the dreams that the couple had of holding their baby and watching it grow are gone.
Miscarriages are not a rare occurrence
One in five recognised pregnancies, meaning the pregnancy has been confirmed, end in miscarriage. However, the actual number is considerably higher than 20 per cent because this figure does not take into account the conceptions that do not culminate in becoming a child.
It can take a few weeks to a month or more for a woman’s body to recover from a miscarriage. Depending on how long she had been pregnant, there may still be pregnancy hormones in her blood for 1 to 2 months after the miscarriage. Most women get their period again 4 to 6 weeks after a miscarriage. An important to note is that a woman should give her body a chance to menstruate again before attempting to become pregnant. Apart from the physical recovery, it is also important to consider the emotional aspects.
After a pregnancy loss, a woman may experience a range of emotions
These emotions include:
- Denial: At first, it might be impossible to grasp what's happened. She finds herself in shock or disbelief.
- Guilt: She wonders if she has omitted some acts that could have prevented the pregnancy loss. She may also feel guilty for working too hard or not having adequate rest.
- Anger: She may be angry at herself, her spouse or partner, her obstetrician, or a higher power.
- Depression: Oftentimes there are symptoms of depression, e.g., low mood, bouts of crying, decreased appetite, poor sleep, trouble concentrating and making decisions.
- Envy: She may intensely envy expectant parents.
- Yearning: She may experience feelings of deep longing and desire to be with her baby.
Grieving takes time.
During the grieving process, some emotions might pass quickly, while others linger. Other loved ones, including the baby's grandparents, might experience similar emotions, including anxiety, bitterness and helplessness.
When a pregnancy ends unexpectedly through a miscarriage, a woman's body may recover physically long before she heals from it emotionally. The grieving process for each person can be different, and because couples may be hesitant to mention a miscarriage, they may end up feeling isolated. Bringing up the topic may make others feel uncomfortable or unsure of what to say.
Some people may react by saying, "You're still young, you can always have another," “What cannot kill you will make you stronger”. These statements, said with good intentions of consoling the grieving individual, not only invalidate the pain or suffering that the couple experience, but also exert undue pressure on them to come to terms with their loss and move on. Grieving takes time and cannot be rushed.
Oftentimes, the women find a point of resolution 12 weeks after a miscarriage. By about 12 weeks, if the good moments in a day do not exceed the bad, a woman should seek help for her pregnancy loss because her grief may be complicated by other issues.
It is important to realise that women and men grieve differently.
Men tend to grieve immediately after a miscarriage, and the resolution of their grief is generally faster than a woman's. Generally, women are more expressive about their loss and more likely to seek support from others. Men may be more action-oriented, tending to gather facts and problem solve, and therefore do not share their feelings that readily. He, nevertheless, also grieves for the loss of the baby and all the associated dreams. Another observation is that men cope by burying themselves in work when they are grieving.
When a man sees his spouse crying or feeling sad about the loss of a pregnancy, he may feel helpless as he is not sure of what he can do to make her feel better. Being there for her and validating her feelings will be useful. A pregnancy loss can put a strain on a relationship and intimacy. One-third of couples who have had a miscarriage would report that their relationship is more distant one year afterwards.
The body may recover from a miscarriage quicker than the mind. Besides feeling better physically, a woman should avoid conceiving again before she feels strong enough to handle its emotional consequences, and a couple's relationship feels strong enough to deal with the anxiety of a subsequent pregnancy.
Do seek help from a mental health professional if one has problems dealing with pregnancy and pregnancy loss.
1 in 4-6 women can miscarry. For most women, the recovery is rather fast and after 1 week, most women have recovered so much so that they can return to work if they so desire. after 1 month, the menstrual period usually returns. This indicates that the female hormones have more or less returned to normal and so the resumption of menses. For most of these women, it probably means a return to ovulation and fertility. The physical recovery is relatively fast and women can usually start sexual intercourse after 1 month. The emotional recovery may take a bit longer and there is no hard and fast rule as to how long this would take as women's desire to conceive again varies tremendously.
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