Miscarriage: Frequency, Cause, and Emotional Responses
Pregnancies are usually only announced after the 12th week of pregnancy. In this way, in the event of a miscarriage in the first trimester, it can be avoided that the miscarriage becomes public. Because in the event of a miscarriage after the announcement of pregnancy, one would be forced to talk about what has happened or would be confronted with the emotions and opinions of other people. For example, some women who have experienced a miscarriage in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy find it a relief not to have announced the pregnancy. You do not need to talk to anyone about the fact that the child you are expecting would no longer be born and you can mourn in silence. However, other women suffer from the silence and feel lonely. You want to exchange ideas with others and feel less alone.
Undoubtedly, the widespread practice of remaining silent during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy often leads to the fact that miscarriages are not talked about and consequently that knowledge about miscarriages in general is limited. The lack of knowledge creates a breeding ground for myths and misconceptions about miscarriages, such as the misconception that miscarriages are rare. Women who experience a miscarriage and believe that miscarriages are very rare can feel isolated, lonely, and socially alienated. Few people know that a miscarriage is one of the most common complications of pregnancy. Every third pregnancy ends in a miscarriage. It can therefore help some women who have experienced a miscarriage to share their experiences with others. Advice centers can also help to convey information and to process what has been experienced.
Another misconception is that miscarriages can be influenced and are lifestyle dependent. In fact, 70 percent of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities. Still, in a survey of 1,332 adult women in Europe conducted by AVA in September 2019, 71% of women mistakenly believed that “stress” could cause a miscarriage, 37% “intense exercise” and 35% “lifting heavy objects”. The myth that miscarriages can be influenced by our lifestyle and are therefore the responsibility of the woman concerned can lead to feelings of guilt; in the survey mentioned above, almost half of women (46%) blamed themselves.
How can feelings of guilt be handled?
Feelings of guilt arise because you think you have done something that you shouldn't have done or that you didn't do something that you should have done. If you feel guilty about it, it may help to recall that most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities. In the process of "ovulation, fertilization of the egg cell and implantation" there are many disruptive factors and lifestyle has only a minor influence. It may also help to remember the frequency of miscarriages. Miscarriages are part of having children: It is very likely that every woman experiences more miscarriages in her lifetime than she gives birth to alive. A miscarriage is therefore not a personal failure; every day of pregnancy that has gone well is a success.
The emotional response to a miscarriage differs from woman to woman. However, almost all women who have experienced a miscarriage grieve. Grief is a process that occurs after a loss and includes physical, emotional, behavioral, social, cultural and philosophical dimensions. External circumstances such as a long-lasting desire to have children, no living children, abortions in the past, an advanced pregnancy and the social environment also influence how someone reacts to a miscarriage.
Just like the reaction to a miscarriage, so is the work of grief different. For some, it helps to get back to normal quickly by distracting themselves with work and other activities. This doesn't work for others and may lead to an intensification of the grief or a shift to other areas of life. For these women, dealing with grief is essential. Personalized rituals can help to process what has been experienced and to give meaning to the grief. In Switzerland, for example, there is the option of notarizing children born and deceased before the 22nd week of pregnancy. Such a confirmation can be requested from the registry office.
Sometimes it helps to share how other women have dealt with their grief after a miscarriage. Did they perform rituals? What helped you process your emotions?
Here is an example from Japan:
Mizuko Kuyō (Water child memorial ceremony) is a Buddhist ceremony practiced in Japan after miscarriages, stillbirths or abortions. Mizuko, literally water child, is the Japanese word for a stillborn child, while Kuyō refers to a funeral ceremony.
In the past existed Mizuko Kuyō from making sacrifices to Jizō, a bodhisattva who stands for the welfare of children. Nowadays is Mizuko Kuyō a structured memorial ceremony that is customary by a Buddhist priest. As part of the ceremony, a jizo satue is placed in the temple garden. She is dressed in a red cloak and a cap, and parents can also decorate the statue with objects from the child.
But no matter how a woman reacts to a miscarriage or how she processes it, a miscarriage is a decisive event that should not be underestimated. Grief, anger, aggression, shame, feelings of guilt - these are all normal emotional responses to a miscarriage that can be overwhelming. Every woman has the right to support in this sensitive phase and no matter how you experience your miscarriage, what reactions you have to it or how you come to terms with your grief, it can be good to talk about your experience. Unfortunately, one in three women who have experienced a miscarriage reports dissatisfaction with the care their doctor provides during and after the miscarriage. This is precisely why it makes sense for many to ask for psychological support.
You don't have to go through it alone.
Sometimes the miscarriage can be experienced as traumatic or lead to a mental disorder. If the response to a miscarriage is long-lasting and / or has a profound effect on your well-being, seek professional psychological counseling or psychotherapy as soon as possible.