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This depends upon whether a D&C has been performed or if your miscarriage is being passed naturally. Passing a failed pregnancy naturally, bleeding may last for one or two weeks. It should be somewhat heavier than a normal period. With a D&C, the period of bleeding is shorter and most bleeding or spotting will stop within a week of the procedure. However, if large clots begin to pass or there is bleeding over one large pad per hour, you should be evaluated by a medical professional. In addition, if there are symptoms from the blood loss such as lightheadedness, dizziness, severe fatigue or chest pain then you should also seek medical care immediately. After the initial heavier blood loss, spotting and brownish discharge may continue for a week or two.
Women don’t die of miscarriage but they do require practical help and emotional support. Your partner may also need to have a D&C or some form of medication to make sure her miscarriage is complete. She can feel fearful about the possible pain of the medical procedures and the physical consequences and also upset that she is, in her mind, ‘getting rid of her baby’. The waiting time for this is usually very stressful so being present as often as possible for her is a good idea. You may be thrown by your partner’s reaction but even capable women are often in such shock, both emotionally and physically, that they are unable to function normally.
On arriving there, use the Emergency parking if nothing else is available near the door and make use of orderlies, stretchers and wheelchairs if they are needed. Some hospitals have special ‘Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinics’ which are available for treatment during the day.
Re-park the car somewhere else as soon as is practicable.
While some women look forward to resuming their sexual relationship as soon as possible, many do not. There are a variety of reasons for this, mainly to do with our attitudes to a part of our body that has let us down and the fear of repeating it all. Doctors advise that while bleeding continues, intercourse should be avoided because of the risk of infection. Even though your cervix will be closed again, sperm can travel up through it and introduce infection into the uterus, which is still healing.
More health info
Sharing the news can be one of the most painful parts of your loss, especially if; there are quite a few people involved; you were already in your second trimester; it is not your first miscarriage. Just saying the words, “I have had a miscarriage” or “I have lost my baby”, intensifies your feelings and reiterates the reality of it all over again.
Personally telling close friends and relations may be hard but necessary for future relations. It is difficult to consider others’ feelings when your own are all so encompassing but do the best you can. If they live close by perhaps have someone you trust organise a get-to-gether so you can tell them all yourselves in one go. It may be that your partner could handle it better than you. Grandparents can be particularly upset but do not necessarily show it, understanding that your feelings are more important. If you hadn’t told many people you were pregnant, it can be a blessing.
Normally, following the death of a family member, we would expect support to come from those closest to us. Miscarriage is unusual in that we often find the most comfort comes from other women who we are not necessarily close to but have experienced miscarriage and dealt with it in a healthy way. You will be amazed at the response when you mention miscarriage in a conversation.
Because we don’t even look pregnant, often it is our silence that prevents us receiving the support we need.
Other than your personal contacts, another source of women who have experienced miscarriage is your local miscarriage support group or try a CAB, GP, Midwife, church or friends for a recommendation for a counsellor.
For free professional help, Auckland callers can go to the Pregnancy Centre, 13 Maidstone St, Ponsonby or call them on 09 378 4060.
If you live outside Auckland contact your closest Miscarriage Support Group, CAB, your GP, Midwife, church or friends for a recommendation.
As parents of babies who have miscarried, we may have to ask our family and friends for the support we need. As very few of us even looked pregnant, the loss is invisible unless we talk about it. Often our very silence perpetuates the myth that miscarriage is not a traumatic event requiring support.
Sometimes we are so immersed in our own grief we forget about that of others, which is just as legitimate. However they will probably recover fairly quickly and may be surprised we do not do the same.
Many couples resist telling their older children about the miscarriage, especially if they didn’t even know about the pregnancy. However, you will not be yourself and the children will pick up on the fact that something is not right. We need to tell them about the miscarriage because:
- They need to understand they are not responsible for what is wrong with us.
- They need to know that it is a common and normal experience.
- They need to be prepared for the possibility of you spending time in hospital and convalescing later.
- The situation is not permanent, we will all get better.
It will not be easy. Be honest, no half truths or phrases such as ‘I’ve lost the baby’, ‘the baby has gone to sleep’, ‘God took the baby to be with him’, ‘he has passed away’ or ‘our baby has gone to a better place’. These are confusing and may be misinterpreted and children can fill in the gaps and sometimes blame themselves. Perhaps they did not want the baby or did something naughty and feel it is their fault your baby has died. It is important to re-assure them that nothing they did caused this.
Most couples find grief has a deep impact on their relationship. It is most important that we accept that his grief will be different from ours. This can be explained by the different rates of bonding experienced by the parents during pregnancy. Note that between two and three months, her bond is about three times his, which is reflected in the differing depths of grief.
Catharsis is choosing the experiences that cause our pain to rise to the surface of our consciousness so it can be released. Some ways of achieving this are:
- Talking about our feelings.
- Self expression through artwork, dance, music, writing, such as keeping a journal, etc.
- Confronting painful situations e.g. visiting a friend with a new baby.
Some people talk about a “desire to let go and move on”. For others it is after they have found a new way to live, a re-establishment of their personal reality. Eventually, with healthy grieving, there does comes a day we can look back and think “I have not felt sad today” or “I have not felt that awful empty pain inside me for a while”. We are able to laugh and look forward again without feeling guilty and to really think about things other than our loss.
As we women regard our foetus’ as part of ourselves, miscarriage is a complex grief that leaves us particularly vulnerable and involves a number of other potential significant losses and additional suffering which is not necessarily present with other types of bereavement, except a stillbirth which is a similar loss occurring after 20 weeks. Not only have we lost our baby, we are suffering from the effects of both a birth and a death. Miscarriage is unique (unless someone has disappeared) in that we have very little remains to bury, sometimes because no baby has formed properly or it is unfortunately passed when using the toilet. When this happens, or even with a later miscarriage and an identifiable little body, our loss can be minimised and invalidated by others, which leads us to question our feelings of grief. However, unrecognised or not, it is the strength of the bond with our baby not the length of the pregnancy that determines the depth of our grief. This mothering bond can have begun to form as early as us playing with our dolls as little girls, so our grief is a normal reaction to a broken bond.
FAQ about miscarriage from a medical viewpoint by Carri Warshak, Perintologist.
This is normal if the pregnancy has lasted longer than 12 weeks and will stop by itself. More health questions.
Although most women miscarry at home, with an ‘incomplete miscarriage‘ or ‘missed miscarriage’ (also known as ‘missed abortion’), you will need to go to hospital. It is preferable to contact your LMC (Leading Maternity Carer) first so that they can contact the hospital and warn them you are coming. (Incomplete miscarriages can result in infection and infertility if left untreated).
A Dilation & Curettage is a minor 10 to 15 minute operation, usually performed under a general or local anaesthetic. You will need to wait for at least 6 hours before a general anaesthetic if you have eaten. If you know ahead that you will probably have a D&C it is advisable not to smoke and drink alcohol 24 hours prior to your operation as well as refraining from eating for 6. The D&C involves dilating (opening) your cervix, or neck of the uterus (womb), and gently scraping it with a curette (an instrument with a long handle, the end shaped like the rim of a hollow spoon). Any pregnancy tissue that is left is removed which is done to prevent infection and excessive bleeding. In some hospitals the tissue will then be sent to the laboratory to be examined under a microscope. In others this may be an option and there also may be a charge.
Most miscarriages begin in places away from hospital and like all births, miscarrying can take anywhere from under an hour to days or even weeks to unfold. Miscarrying is a natural process and happens when a baby hasn’t formed completely. Unlike most of us who have experienced it, medically, miscarriage is considered a minor event, not necessarily requiring professional monitoring. Being checked out afterward though is a necessity.
Except for the timing, miscarriages usually happen in the same way. A fast miscarriage can be really shocking and frightening once the process begins to happen, especially if it is your first pregnancy and you have no idea what to expect. Pain can quite quickly reach a level beyond anything you have experienced before (each person’s level of pain is individual) and the amount of blood loss may seem too large an amount to survive. However, be reassured that miscarriage is very seldom fatal. Although no intervention can save your baby, for your own healthy recovery see the following suggestions.
- Ring your medical professional or local hospital and describe your symptoms. Ask any questions you may have, write a list before you ring. Although no intervention can save your baby your medical caregiver needs to know what is happening so that:
a. you receive appropriate follow up care
b. it goes on your medical record
- Ask others for help. You need someone to be with you and take you to hospital or for professional help. Never drive if you are having a miscarriage as you can lose consciousness.
- If you are alone and things are happening fast, dial 111 (in NZ) for an ambulance. There is a fee for this service.
Even though our bodies are able to ovulate and conceive four to six weeks after our miscarriage, we believe it does not necessarily follow that we are all emotionally ready to cope with a healthy full term pregnancy. The decision is a personal one and perhaps dependent on an age factor but we recommend taking into account your state of mind over the grief of your loss before making a decision. The next baby does not replace the lost one, as is sometimes expected, (see more details under ’Things we may not know’ that another baby will fix this’) which can exacerbate unresolved grief and may also cause post-natal depression. READ MORE
It is normal to feel emotionally and physically drained following a miscarriage. If possible take a few days off work, and if you can’t, make sure you get to bed early, plan rests where possible and postpone anything that isn’t urgent.
Make yourself your first priority.
The generally accepted figures are that between 15% – 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. From our own experience we suggest 1 in 4. However, that figure could be higher according to the English Professor, Sir Robert Winston, if unreported miscarriages are included. READ MORE
The following possible reasons are a collation of internet findings from medical sites recognised for their status and integrity. Several apply to recurrent miscarriage only. Some causes are generally accepted and others are still in the research stages. They have been edited by a medical professional. READ MORE
Medically, miscarriage is considered a minor event not requiring professional monitoring – consequently most miscarriages happen in places away from hospitals. Like birth, after a full term pregnancy, miscarriage can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours, days or even weeks to unfold. Miscarriage is often shocking and can be very frightening especially when the pain level is beyond anything you have experienced before and the amount of blood loss seems too large an amount to survive. Miscarriage is very seldom fatal however always check with your medical professional and take note of what is happening.
- Take a few deep breathes and try to think about what is actually happening. If you can, it is a good idea to jot thoughts down including any questions you may have, before phoning anyone. Meantime, if you can find someone around to help, ask them to do it for you. Keep track of; when the pains started; their strength and location; when the bleeding began; how many sanitary pads have been used and how often changed.
- Contact your professional medical carer (whose information is always good to keep handy) and describe your symptoms so she can help you make a decision on what to do
- If you wish to complete your miscarriage at home and she agrees to help you through this time, you will be in her hands
- If he or she suggests calling the hospital they still need to know what is happening as well so they can check a) you receive the correct immediate care b) you received the appropriate after care including a D&C if necessary
- If you contact the hospital they may advise a friend/relative to drive you in while they sort out arrangements for you to be admitted. In the car, lie down on your side on the back seat (the most comfortable position, and it also reduces blood flow) and take extra towels with you.
- Or dial our emergency number anyway 111 NZ ( or US 911 ) for an ambulance if you wish. (There is a fee for this service in NZ)
- The loss of blood and lack of concentration means Never Driving Yourself. You could also lose consciousness
- Meantime, if you haven’t already, try and find a support person and take things quietly. To relieve pain take paracetamol (not aspirin) but do not exceed stated dosage, lie down and place a hot water-bottle, wheat bag or heat pack on your lower abdomen or back
- To soak up the blood towels may be more useful. Do not use tampons or bathe. Shower only if you have a support person with you N.B. If you are able and wish to, have a strong stomach and can cope, squat over a clean container so you can save everything which can then be seen by your medical professional. (A warning; you may also see your baby’s foetus.) The results can be sent for testing which may be useful with future pregnancies. You are entitled to have everything back for burial/cremation
- If possible in the waiting time, pack a bag with 2 nighties, underwear dressing gown, slippers, toilet kit with toothbrush and paste, face cloth, soap and sanitary pads
- As you may need a D&C, avoid eating or drinking except for regular small sips of water. Your stomach must be empty for the anaesthetic
- If you have children or pets, have your support person make arrangements for their care or if there is no-one, let the ambulance people know when they come and offer them phone numbers