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Help on Coping with Miscarriage

If you have suffered the devastating loss of a pregnancy, you are probably experiencing a whirlwind of emotions. Coping with miscarriage is not easy, as many conflicting ideas and feelings surround miscarriage. The first thing you must understand is that it is very unlikely that you are at any way to blame for the miscarriage, no matter what common “wisdom” about the topic may say.

Many people believe that a woman’s physical activity can provoke a miscarriage – from exercise and horseback riding to sexual intercourse and airplane trips. But what is important to understand is that during the first trimester of a pregnancy, a woman can certainly continue with her normal physical activities without additional risk.

When a miscarriage in the first trimester occurs, it is usually the result of a chromosomal abnormality – something that occurs randomly and is completely outside either parent’s control. The embryo or fetus is not developing normally, and as a result the body, on its own, terminates the pregnancy. The only thing exercise contributes to this process is in helping along the expulsion of the already-unhealthy pregnancy. Exercise in itself will not cause the miscarriage.

If you or a friend have already experienced a miscarriage, you may have heard the doctor advise you to stay away from exercise. If a doctor recommends abstinence from these activities, it is not because they are actually harmful. It is because many women, despite assurances to the contrary, believe that they are in fact at fault for the miscarriage. If a woman abstains from exercise, and another miscarriage occurs, she is protected from blaming herself.

Some women may have a valid reason to feel guilty for an early miscarriage, if excessive substance use is involved (cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, drugs). What is important to remember here is that you did not know that you were pregnant and therefore should not feel too strongly at fault. What you may do, however, is focus on the fact that you are able to bear children, and if it would be better to moderate or eliminate your intake of substances in order for your next pregnancy to be successful.

Guilt is just one aspect of coping with miscarriage. Whether you blame yourself or not, with reason or not, you must also go through a grieving process. This becomes difficult when, in some ways, society sends out a conflicting message regarding whether an embryo or fetus qualifies as a human life. You may in fact be pro-choice, yet feel that the loss of your pregnancy is just as devastating as would be the loss of a baby or toddler. This is completely valid – because you loved your unborn child, plain and simple. You have the right to grieve and to have others understand that grief.

One way to help you is to honor and remember your child. There are many ways to do this, from naming him or her (to let you refer to and recall the child by name), planting a tree or other plant that you can watch grow as you would have watched your child, making a donation in his/her name, holding a memorial service, writing in a journal, or attending a support group. There are many ways to cope with miscarriage and you should feel free to try as many as you need to achieve closure.

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