Pregnancy loss may be more common than you think. Experts say as many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and one in 160 babies are stillborn. Despite these numbers, a pregnancy that ends unexpectedly is often devastating for the mother and family. And talking about what happened can help, too. As one nurse and perinatal loss coordinator at Methodist Hospital Family Birth Center says, “Talking about the baby is part of a healing process. It helps the baby live on in your memories.”
Angela Pogorzelski, a mother who experienced multiple pregnancy losses, found participating in a support group to be invaluable.
“I found a group immediately and made some great friends who really helped me,” she said. “The support I received enabled me to reach out and help others as well.” Below, we explain some of the best forms of support for pregnancy loss, whether it’s yours or someone else’s.
What to do after a miscarriage
While the grieving process varies from person to person, there are some basic strategies that can help people after losing a baby:
- See a grief counselor. Hospital grief counselors and other experts can be a valuable resource to help process feelings and begin to move forward.
- Find a miscarriage support group. Knowing you are not alone can make a difference. Community support groups or online forums can be a helpful way to share and gain insights from others going through similar experiences. “I found Facebook support groups to be especially helpful,” said Angela. “There is always someone up at the wee-hours of the morning who you can lean on, whether it’s someone who is experiencing insomnia alongside you, or someone across the globe who has been where you are.”
- Take care of your mental health. People are typically at risk for depression after having a miscarriage or stillbirth, and symptoms may not appear until months later. Talk to your provider about the warning signs.
- Keep your baby’s memory alive. Consider ways to honor and remember your baby. Writing letters, journaling and even taking photographs can be therapeutic.
- Don’t forget about dad. Pregnancy loss can have an equally profound impact on fathers – they can also experience depression from child loss. It is important for both mothers and fathers to be on the journey to healing together.
What to say and do for someone who had a miscarriage
When a friend or family member experiences a pregnancy loss, it’s natural to want to offer support. But how? Will your words come out right? Will they make a difference?
Communication is encouraged. Even though you may not know exactly what to say, don’t be afraid to reach out. Your willingness to listen and be present shows your concern and demonstrates support. Here are a few tips:
- Talk about it. Angela says talking about her baby gave others permission to talk. Conversations about her baby helped provide the support she needed. “The more we talked about her, the more real she became. I do have a daughter,” she says. “And I do have support.”
- Be comfortable with silence. Don’t worry about gaps in conversations. Silence can be just as helpful, allowing time for feelings and thoughts to process. Your presence alone can provide an opportunity for your friend or family member to share when they are ready to.
- Say the baby’s name. If the family named the baby, acknowledge that and refer to the baby by name.
- Avoid advice. Even with the best intentions, unsolicited advice or speculations are usually not helpful. Instead, just let the family know you are thinking of them. “Knowing that your baby is remembered and not forgotten is the best gift you can give someone,” Angela says.
- Reach out throughout the years. It may be helpful to reach out to someone who experienced pregnancy loss at certain points in the future. Key dates to consider include the baby’s due date or birth date, as well as holidays or other celebrations. By sending a card or checking in on the family, you are showing that you care.
Helpful acts for someone who had a miscarriage or stillbirth
If you’re ever unsure of how to show your support to someone who’s had a pregnancy loss, consider making helpful gestures. Offering to bring a meal, mowing the lawn or taking the family’s other children on an outing are all good examples. Grief can make it hard to ask for help, or know what to ask for in the first place. If you see that something needs to be done, offer to do it. And as the family members continue to process their loss, they’ll be able to tell you what’s most helpful to them.
Be kind to yourself, and ask for help if you need it
Grief is a process, and it takes time. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, know that there’s nothing wrong with continuing to be affected by it long after the fact. What’s important is to let your loved ones know how you’re feeling. And if your feelings become overwhelming, talk to a mental health professional. Symptoms of anxiety and depression related to a pregnancy loss can last for years, so the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can find a treatment that works for you.
Learn more about treatment for mental health issues and pregnancy loss