Miscarriage and the Sense of Personal Failure
Posted on December 14, 2010
Lisa Ling, the former View host, revealed this week that following a miscarriage at 7 weeks into her first pregnancy she felt like a failure, and that she also felt very isolated and alone because no one talked about it. For this reason, she is speaking out and has created a website where women can anonymously share their experiences with miscarriage called Secret Society of Women.
Ten years ago, when I wrote "Unspeakable Losses: Healing from Miscarriage, Abortion and Other Pregnancy Losses" I felt exactly the same way. The silence surrounding miscarriage only makes you feel more freakish and alone. Here is what you need to know about miscarriages:
Miscarriages are Common
Approximately one in 5 pregnancies in the US end in miscarriage every year. That means hundreds of thousands of women experience miscarriages every year. And most of those miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In fact, your chance of miscarrying after that time is only 3%.
Having One Miscarriage Doesn't Mean You'll have another
Most miscarriages, however, are usually random and isolated events. Having one miscarriage only slightly increases your odds of having another one.
The Emotional Impact can be Devastating
For many women, the attachment to the child she is carrying begins at the moment she knows she is pregnant. That is when we begin dreaming about the baby we are carrying and imagining how our lives will change in only nine short months. Few of us hold back our excitement due to fears of a first trimester miscarriage. Instead, we start taking extraordinarily good care of ourselves-eating right, getting plenty of rest and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco products. When a loss takes place despite all of these preparations, you can feel like you did something wrong. Even the word-miscarriage-seems to imply that you did not carry your baby properly.
It is Not Your Fault
In many, if not most cases, the cause of your miscarriage will never be known. Again, most miscarrages are random and isolated events. Doctors now believe that at least 60% of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the developing embryo or fetus, and that another 10% are caused by various uterine abnormalties (most of which can be corrected with surgery). The remaining 30% of miscarriages may be cause by immunological factors, infections or environmental factors (including smoking and heavy alcohol use).
Recovering from Miscarriage Takes Time
It is often more difficult to recover emotionally from a miscarriage than it is to recover physically from one. Even if you had to have a D & C, the emotional fallout from a miscarriage can stay with you for months afterward. Guilt, shame, sadness, anger, and a feeling of powerlessness are very common emotions. So is a sense of generalized anxiety and the fear of another loss. It is not uncommon, especially if you are not able to become pregnant again quickly, to have an ongoing awareness of how far along in the pregnancy you would have been if the loss had not occurred. Many women feel particularly grief-stricken around the time of the due date of that pregnancy. Miscarriage is a traumatic experience-it takes time to heal from a trauma of any kind.
It is important to be gentle with your self and find people to talk to who are compassionate and will not judge you for the intensity of your feelings. It is also important not to blame yourself, or to isolate yourself too much. It may be impossible to spend much time around pregnant friends or those with babies or young children, but if you don't have people in your life who are willing to share their own experiences of pregnancy loss with you, there is a large group of people out there who have been through a miscarriage, and there are many on-line resources and books available to you that can help you feel less alone.
- Empty Arms by Pam Vredevelt
- Empty Cradle, Broken Heart by Deborah L. Davis
- Unspeakable Losses by Kim Kluger-Bell
- Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart by Marie Allen, Shelly Marks
Kim Kluger-Bell is a psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist in private practice in Berkeley, California. She specializes in helping individuals and couples heal from such reproductive crises as infertility, pregnancy loss, and abortion. She lives in Albany, California, with her husband and son.