The time following a miscarriage can be bewildering and messy. You probably never expected to be in this situation and aren’t sure where to go from here. Below I’ve shared my advice on how to take care of your physical and emotional health during the aftermath of loss.
1. Get clear follow-up instructions from your doctor.
While it can be hard to think about the practical side of miscarriage during this time, it’s vital to your physical health to ask your doctor what s/he wants you to do in the coming weeks. Do you need any additional treatments? Should you abstain from sex to avoid an infection? How much bleeding is too much, and what are the signs of infection you should look out for? Do you need to come in to track your hCG levels to 0? How long until you should expect your next period? When can you safely try again?
If you don’t remember or don’t have the opportunity to ask these when you first find out you’re miscarrying, call the doctor’s office. They may schedule a consultation or simply call you back to provide instructions. If you’re concerned you may not be able to get through this discussion or remember what is said, don’t hesitate to ask a partner, friend, or family member to come with you to ask your questions and remember the answers for you.
2. If you were beyond the first trimester or if this is not your first loss, request additional testing.
There are a number of treatable problems that cause late or recurrent miscarriages. Press your doctor to be tested for these issues. Not only could the results of these tests point to treatment that could prevent future heartbreak and loss, but they may also help answer questions about your loss(es) that could provide emotional healing.
3. Follow your doctor’s orders.
If your doctor gives you a recommendation on what to do after your miscarriage, when to start trying again, etc., please follow it. Their advice is informed by extensive education and training and a desire to make sure you are healthy and eventually have a healthy pregnancy. If you have questions or concerns about their recommendations, by all means, follow up and ask questions, and if for any reason you don’t trust your doctor’s expertise and judgment, then seek a second opinion. Don’t simply throw your doctor’s orders out the window just because you don’t like what they have to say or because you read something contradictory on the internet. It could do serious harm, and if you don’t worry for yourself, then try to remember that following your doctor’s recommendation will give you the best shot at a healthy baby down the line. That’s worth the wait.
4. Let yourself be sad.
You will find that many people will expect you to “bounce back” from your miscarriage. They may not understand why you are grieving, and they may pressure you to move on before you are ready. You may even internalize these attitudes and start feeling silly or guilty because you haven’t moved on on other people’s timeline.
Your grief is real and natural, and most people who experience a miscarriage feel just as you do. There is no timeline for grief, no deadline for when you should stop feeling sad. In fact, you may always harbor a little sadness, and rather than going back to normal, it’s possible you simply establish a new normal. It’s okay for you to be sad. Let yourself feel it.
5. Set boundaries for yourself.
You may find that in the wake of your miscarriage, things that were once pleasant and enjoyable no longer are. You may have been looking forward to a friend’s baby shower, but now can’t think of it without tears. Your friend’s facebook updates about their pregnancy may now be upsetting. You may not be up to some social events not because of anything in particular that could serve as a trigger, but because you’re just not ready to be out there again. Your feelings are perfectly normal, and there’s nothing wrong with you if you aren’t capable of handling these situations right now. Decline that baby shower invitation, unfollow social media notifications from your pregnant friend, and bow out of social events you aren’t ready for.
The same goes for people who are insensitive, unkind, or unfeeling. You are not obligated to spend time with people who hurt you. Set boundaries with those close to you about what you do and don’t want to hear related to your miscarriage, and don’t feel bad about avoiding those who cannot be kind and supportive.
If there are situations and people you cannot avoid, I strongly encourage you to work out a code word with an understanding partner, family member, or friend, who can give you an out when you need a break.
6. Resist the lure of Dr. Google.
It’s so easy to fall into a search engine-fueled black hole of despair in the wake of a loss when you’re trying to find some reason for your miscarriage. Avoid this trap. It will not give you the answers you are looking for or make you feel better. It will only add to your worries and stress at a time when you should be focused on healing. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
7. Get support.
Whether it’s leaning on an understanding and sympathetic partner, family member, or friend, relying on an online or in-person support group, or seeking private counseling, it is important to get the support you need after a miscarriage. Very few people find the healing process to be easy, and even fewer find it possible to heal when they feel alone and unsupported. You deserve love, kindness, compassion, and open ears right now. Seek out those who can provide that.