With Pregnancy Loss, Support Is Available For a Devastating Time

Woman consoled by doctor

When pregnancy loss happens, people often feel alone and isolated. But those who are affected by pregnancy loss do not have to go through the experience feeling emotionally separated from others. Certified nurse midwives, in addition to tending to a woman's physical health, can offer holistic support during what can be a devastating time.

“We’re really good at providing that safe space for people who are affected by pregnancy loss,” says UH certified nurse midwife Ann Mehler. “We provide a lot of emotional support, along with the medical information and explanation, and we walk patients through the decision-making processes, depending on how the loss is happening.”

Ms. Mehler follows up with patients a couple of days after diagnosis to see how they want to proceed, and she always checks in a couple of weeks later to see if they need any additional support. For patients who go on to conceive again, she’s sure to provide extra TLC in subsequent pregnancies of those who have experienced a loss.

Types of Pregnancy Loss

Unfortunately, pregnancy loss is an all-too-common occurrence. In fact, about 15 percent of confirmed pregnancies end in loss, Ms. Mehler says.

There are two main types of pregnancy loss:

  • A miscarriage, also called early pregnancy loss, happens before 20 weeks. About half of these losses are caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
  • A stillbirth is when a fetus dies after 20 weeks. Stillbirths occur in about one of every 100 pregnancies.

Risk Factors for Pregnancy Loss

One of the most challenging aspects of pregnancy loss is that there are often no answers as to why it happened, and that uncertainty can be difficult.

“Women will try to internalize it. They can sometimes blame themselves and ask, ‘Is it something I did wrong? Is there something I could’ve done differently?’ That’s not usually the case,” Ms. Mehler says.

Some factors that can contribute to pregnancy loss include:

  • Abnormal embryo development
  • Hormone problems in the mother, such as low levels of progesterone or a thyroid problem
  • High blood pressure or diabetes in the mother
  • Problems in the uterus, such as scar tissue
  • Infection
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Injury or trauma
  • Exposure to toxic substances and chemicals

Remember, most of the time, pregnancy loss can’t be prevented.

Recovery From Pregnancy Loss

The loss of a pregnancy can result in a range of responses, all of which are completely normal. You might feel sad, angry, shocked, or all of the above. Physical symptoms, such as abdominal pain and cramping, may occur as well, but the emotional effects are what tend to linger.

“Physically, your body recovers a lot more quickly than you emotionally recover,” Ms. Mehler says.

There are some things you can do that might help manage your grief, such as naming the baby or talking to friends about what happened.

“Allow yourself to grieve the loss,” Ms. Mehler says. “Give yourself the time to go through the grieving process, and remember that everybody recovers differently. If you need to seek somebody to talk through it, do that, too.”

That might be a grief counselor, a therapist, or a support group — your midwife or doctor should be able to refer you to options.

When to Try Conceiving Again

In years past, women were often told to wait a certain amount of time before trying to have another baby, but usually that’s not medically necessary. After the HCG pregnancy hormone levels have returned to zero, “you don’t have to wait X amount of months,” Ms. Mehler says. “I always tell patients it’s once they’re emotionally ready, when they’ve finished their grieving process.”

For people who have experienced two or more pregnancy losses in a row, Ms. Mehler says it might be worth considering undergoing tests to see if an underlying cause can be identified. But even multiple pregnancy losses do not mean you can’t or won’t successfully carry a baby to term.

If you do conceive again, you might be especially anxious as the pregnancy progresses. This is where a good support system, including a compassionate health care provider, can be invaluable.

Just remember, Ms. Mehler says: There is hope — and healing — on the other side of a pregnancy loss.

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Pregnancy and childbirth specialist: University Hospitals is a trusted resource for many expectant parents in communities across Northeast Ohio. Our experienced team utilizes the latest evidence-based childbirth practices, providing personalized, family-centered delivery services tailored to your unique needs. Learn more about the pregnancy and childbirth specialists at University Hospitals.