If you’ve experienced pregnancy loss, as isolating as it may feel, you’re far from alone. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that early pregnancy loss before 13 weeks happens in about 1 in 10 known pregnancies.* (1)
Miscarriage, which is the term for pregnancy loss between 13 and 20 weeks, happens in 1-5 out of every 100 pregnancies. (2) Stillbirth, which is a loss after 20 weeks, happens in about 1 in 100. (3) The overall rate, throughout pregnancy, may be as many as 1 in 4. (4)
Even though pregnancy loss is common, grief and stigma can make it really hard to talk about. But opening up about our experiences can help us process and even find community. For those who have experienced pregnancy loss, we hope this article can serve as a meaningful resource for coping through recovery—a lost and found, of sorts.
6 Ways to Help Cope After Pregnancy Loss
There’s no rulebook for emotionally and physically dealing with a pregnancy loss—and our society unfortunately falls short at making sure everyone has the support they need.
So, we’ve tapped trusted doulas and therapists to help you navigate this common (yet commonly misunderstood) experience.
1. Hold space for your healing.
There’s no way to predict the emotions that may ebb and flow after pregnancy loss, but you can create space for yourself to process and grieve.
“Know that it's okay to grieve and that grieving can look like lots of different things,” says Morgan Carrion, AMFT, a therapist at Spaces Therapy. “The more you make room for mixed feelings, for new layers of grief, for normal and expected anxieties, the more you can be with yourself in the process … be ready to be a good friend to yourself in the process.”
What can holding space for your healing look like? Listening to your body and heart’s wants and needs—and accepting them without judgment.
“Hormonally, your body is going through a lot. Respect that,” recommends Noa Doula founder Kiera Moré. “Proper nourishment, hydration, and rest are vital to your physical and emotional recovery.”
Amanda Debacker, The LA Doula, understands the experience and what it takes to handle this firsthand. “Miscarriage is a loss that comes with a physical daily reminder (at least for the first weeks after) of your pain: The bleeding, the cramps and bloating. Each trip to the bathroom brings sadness and anger,” she explains. “The only way through is day by day letting yourself grieve, speaking to other women who have suffered, and eventually forgiving yourself and your body.”
2. Take the time you need.
Grief doesn’t happen on an exact timeline—and the process is different for everyone. “I wish there were a magic number of days that I could tell people have to pass before that suddenly feel ‘normal’ again,” says Moré. “Everyone copes and processes differently … Some people completely block it out and become stoic after a loss and it hits them weeks later. Others feel it immediately and process it and feel ready to try again right away.”
Moré suggests taking as much time as you need to process, grieve, and heal. “In my experience as a doula, the best way to cope with pregnancy loss is to allow yourself to feel the loss, Moré says. “Do not rush your grief.”
Psychologist Dr. Rebecca Lesser Allen has a pragmatic recommendation for how to begin your journey to recovery: "Don't go to work the next day,” Dr. Allen says. “Take time for yourself if you're able. Whether you tell your employer what you've experienced or if you're not comfortable in sharing, you can tell them you need medical leave."
While there’s no set grief timeline, research does give us insight into the average peaks and valleys. “One thing that many of my grieving clients have found to be helpful is knowing that the intensity of grief is at its peak the first six months after loss,” says Spaces Therapy founder Janie Glassmith, LMFT. “This came out of a study done by Yale in 2007 that studied the timeline for grief and found that after the first six months grief starts to integrate in your life rather than being a cloud that hangs over every day.” (5)
3. Know that it’s not your fault.
Pregnancy loss is not your fault. Oftentimes, it’s a completely random event. Moré believes that talking to a provider about possible reasons can be comforting for some. “Understanding what caused the loss, if there is a definitive reason,” Moré says, “can help some people process what happened.”
4. Lean on community.
Having a support system who can hear and validate what you’re going through is important. Talking about it with people who can lend you an ear without diminishing your feelings is really useful,” says Moré. “Steer clear of anyone who responds to your loss with things like, ‘Oh, it was only X weeks,’ or ‘Mother Nature knows best.’”
Glassmith adds that “giving space to talk about and feel grief” is important, whether it’s with friends, family members, or a support group. There are many pregnancy loss support groups, some of which are free and meet virtually. Find a group through Postpartum Support International, SHARE: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc, or Pregnancy After Loss Support.
5. Honor your experience, whatever that means for you.
Dr. Allen shares that memorializing or ritualizing your experience in some way can be very meaningful. “One way to do this is by naming [your] baby, or finding a ritual celebrated annually on the marked due date.” She does this personally by wearing a ring with her baby’s birthstone month.
Honoring the loss can also be really simple: “Journaling about your experience and your feelings can feel cathartic and can help you process what has happened,” adds Moré.
6. Only try again if and when you’re ready.
Debacker experienced six miscarriages before having her second child. She needed time to heal before being ready to try again after the sixth loss. “Although physically it’s okay to try as soon as you stop bleeding and feel strong again, mentally is another level,” Debacker says. “There is fear to address. Excitement for what’s to come. And possible despair when/if it happens again.“
Moré reminds us that “it is perfectly normal to feel some nervousness about trying again after a loss.” “Acknowledge the feeling and put one foot in front of the other if/when trying again feels right for you,” she recommends.
You are not alone in this process, even though it may feel like it. While you’re the only one who can know your grief, support is available to help you through it:
• The "Babies in the Sky" book
• Centering Corporation
• Compassionate Friends
• Dr. Jessica Zuckerberg's "I Had a Miscarriage" Instagram
• From Hurt to Healing
• Grieve Out Loud
• Miscarriage Matters
• Postpartum Support International
• Return to Zero: H.O.P.E.
• SHARE: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc
• Sisters in Loss
• Spaces Therapy