Pregnancy loss happens in about 10-25% of confirmed pregnancies. That is 1 in 4. This percentage may actually be higher as some losses occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant.
Early loss, a loss which occurs before 8 weeks gestation, is the most common. Pregnancy that ends before 20 weeks is called a miscarriage. The reason for miscarriage is difficult to diagnose, as chromosomal abnormalities is believed to be the most common cause. Pregnancy that ends after 20 weeks is called stillbirth which is less common. In most cases, there is nothing a woman can do to prevent a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Different types of miscarriage affect the woman’s body differently. Some women are able to complete the process at home naturally, while others may need medical intervention. Miscarriage not only affects the woman physically; it often has a tremendous emotional toll as well.
I finally saw two lines. We had been trying to add another child to our family for two years. I had taken dozens of pregnancy tests, all showing the dreaded one line. Many tears were shed; my heart broke a little more with each month that passed. Then it happened. Two lines appeared.
For me, the connection was instant. This child growing inside of me had been waited for and prayed about. I immediately started envisioning how life would change now that we were a family of four. I could finally breathe again; everything felt like it was falling into place.
I had to wait three weeks for my first doctor’s appointment. Three weeks of feeling tired and nauseous and experiencing all of the things that newly pregnant mothers feel. I also felt elated. I had conversations with the baby inside of me. I was now a mother of two and I could not wait to meet my second child.
At my first appointment, the doctor did an internal ultrasound. My baby, who was supposed to measure at 9 weeks, appeared to be more like 6 weeks along. My doctor told me I might be off on the date I had conceived and ordered bloodwork to check my hormone levels. As I walked down the hall to get my blood drawn, I had a feeling of dread. I thought my only issue was achieving pregnancy. I never considered not being able to deliver a healthy baby.
The next day, I was anxious for the doctor to call with my test results. Finally, I got the call in the afternoon. The doctor told me my hormone levels were dropping and that the pregnancy is abnormal. The words used by the doctor seemed sterile, medical…not words to describe my baby or the gut-wrenching pain I felt hearing this news. After the doctor explained that I could take a medication to “expel the tissue” or wait for my body to do it naturally, I hung up the phone.
I knew miscarriage happened to many women, I just never thought about me being one of them.
I went in search of other women who had experienced this and was connected with a lovely friend who helped me immensely. She told me what to expect physically, she validated my feelings, and gave me the name of her doctor. I’m not sure how I would have endured this process without her.
Now I waited for my body to release this precious child. One week went by, then two, then three. The waiting was both torture and also comforting. Torture because I knew what the end would bring, comforting because my body was still holding this sweet child, not wanting to let go.
After seeing a new doctor, I was diagnosed with what is called a missed miscarriage. This means the baby has stopped growing or died, but there are no miscarriage symptoms. It was decided that I would need a surgical procedure, known as a D&C, to ensure I do not develop an infection. After waking up from surgery, I felt empty. My child was no longer inside of me. I only had 12 weeks with this baby. Even so, this baby will forever be a part of our family.
As I healed physically, my mental health started to feel the effects of my grief. I found information and support through the national organization, SHARE, which just happened to be headquartered in my city. I learned that it’s okay to speak about the children we lose; in fact, it feels good to talk about them.
I attend an annual walk of remembrance, where hundreds of families affected by this type of loss come together, and all baby names are read out loud. It’s very powerful and helped me start to heal. I found wonderful women, online and in person, who have endured this pain also and are willing to share about the hard stuff. Women are strong. Mothers are strong. That is my story.
I am 1 in 4.
If you or someone you love is experiencing a miscarriage, know it is important to discuss how you are feeling with your doctor, find a support group, meet with a counselor, or reach out to another woman who has also experienced loss.
Know that you are not alone and that sharing your feelings and finding ways to remember your baby can help with the grieving process.