Pregnancy Women's health

Early pregnancy loss is still a loss

Sad woman

At PAIL Network, we hear from many families that their hopes begin the minute a double-line is spotted on the pregnancy test.  Women and their families imagine holding the baby for the first time, and thoughts turn to the countless milestones (first day of school, first goal in a soccer game) in any child’s life.

Hearing the words “You’ve had a miscarriage” can be devastating.  All of the hopes and dreams you had for your baby’s future are gone.

I just learned that early pregnancy loss is very common. Why don’t people talk about it?

It’s true, loss occurs in approximately one out of four pregnancies.  Yet women and their families often feel like they have to keep an early pregnancy loss in the first trimester “under wraps;” that it’s something to be swept under the rug.

At PAIL Network, we believe that a loss is a loss, regardless of gestational age or circumstances surrounding the loss. I encourage you to seek out other families who have also experienced a loss and share your stories with each other.  PAIL Network has both in-person and telephone support, run by families who have experienced a loss themselves.  Many families tell me how important it is to hear from others who have experienced a loss, as this helps them feel the emotions they’re feeling are valid and completely normal.  This sharing is often an important start to healing.

What should I expect – physically and emotionally – after losing a baby?

Losing a baby at any point of pregnancy can be accompanied by a number of physical and emotional responses. One of Sunnybrook’s gynecologists, Dr. Leslie Po, has written a post on the physical side of early pregnancy loss.  Emotionally, you may experience a roller coaster of feelings as you learn how to incorporate your loss into your life.  There’s no time limit on how long your grieving process will take, every family is different. Many families struggle seeing women who are pregnant and feel like they are surrounded by reminders of their loss.  Everything you’re feeling is normal – be kind to yourself and take the time you need to grieve.

My partner is having a very different reaction to the loss than I am

I’ve heard from families that sometimes their partners aren’t processing the loss in the same way they are.  It can be difficult to recognize how unique grief is to each person, even with those you are closest with in your family.  Friends and family may extend their support in a way that isn’t helpful to you, saying things like “Don’t worry, you can always try again” or “It’s time to move on.”   Try to remember that their intentions are good, even when their comments are hurtful.

Some families have found ways to redirect these conversations by saying something like: “We are very sad to have lost this baby.  I appreciate you are trying to help, but I’m not ready to talk about trying again.  Right now I need to feel that I can talk about my loss with those who can listen and support me.”  Remember that your heartache and pain is a very typical reaction to the loss of your baby, and you don’t need to apologize for your grief.

I can’t bear the thought of getting groceries, how can I get back to normal activities?

As you’re healing from your pregnancy loss, ask friends and family to help with laundry, shopping and cooking.  You need time to heal. Talk to other families about how they were able to manage their first time running errands, going for a walk, and how they responded to questions about their loss.

It has been a while and I’m still not feeling like myself.  What should I do?

Some people experience intense mood swings and longer-lasting symptoms of depression following a pregnancy loss.  Speak with your doctor if you (or your partner or family members) are concerned.

How do I get through the holidays, and other events following the loss?

You may feel sadder than usual during the holidays, around the time the pregnancy was lost, or around your baby’s due date.  These can be painful reminders of your loss.   It’s okay to let others know how you’re feeling and take time for yourself.  If it’s easier, have your partner explain to family and friends about the emotions you’re feeling.

Remember, you’re not alone and there is support.  Please visit PAIL Network to learn more about support available and to read other families’ stories of loss.



About the author

Michelle LaFontaine

Michelle LaFontaine is the program manager of the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network (PAIL Network).