A miscarriage can be traumatic, and the days and weeks following can be an emotional rollercoaster. You may be sad, angry, frustrated, guilty (even though you shouldn’t be) — or none of these. And you’re not alone. About one-fifth of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, most within the first trimester, and most people who have a miscarriage go on to have a healthy pregnancy later. In this article we go over what to expect after a miscarriage and guidance for grieving and moving forward.
That may seem like small comfort at the moment when your emotions are raw, and your body is still confused by what’s happened. But there are steps you can take to make a recovery — both physical and emotional — a little easier.
Have Patience with Your Body
Thanks to hormones, pregnancy begins causing changes in the body very early on, and it can take weeks for these changes to reverse themselves. Some hormones can take up to two months to dissipate, and how long your physical recovery takes depends to some degree on how far along in the pregnancy you were. So be patient with your body and remember that while you’re probably experiencing some emotional upheaval, your body has also experienced dramatic changes. It may take a little time to return to normal.
What to Expect After a Miscarriage
After a miscarriage, you can expect to have vaginal bleeding for a week or so, which will gradually lighten and cease. During this time, you should avoid using tampons, as your cervix is open, and you could introduce bacteria and cause an infection. Likewise, you should avoid hot tubs, swimming pools, tub baths, and douches, and refrain from sex until the bleeding has stopped. Most people ovulate within two to four weeks of having a miscarriage and resume normal periods in four to six weeks.
You may also have abdominal pain and cramps, like period cramps, for two to three days afterward. A hot compress, hot water bottle, or heating pad can help alleviate this. You can also take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with the pain of cramping, just as you would if you were on your period.
Depending on how far along you were at the time of your miscarriage, you may also have uncomfortable symptoms such as tender breasts, breast engorgement (your breasts becoming uncomfortably full of milk), or even leaking milk. These symptoms should disappear within a week or ten days; in the meantime, hot or cold packs can help relieve the discomfort, and a supportive, well-fitting bra is also helpful.
Finally, you may feel betrayed by your body after a miscarriage — but be gentle with yourself. Don’t blame your body; most miscarriages happen because of a problem with the fetus or embryo, not because your body is incapable of sustaining a pregnancy. Be kind to your body by eating healthily and getting enough sleep.
Give Yourself Space to Process Your Feelings
The most important thing to know about emotionally recovering from a miscarriage is this: whatever you feel is perfectly okay.
Your feelings may run the gamut of emotions. You may feel angry. You may feel profound grief. You may feel numb and shocked. You may find that you don’t have strong feelings about the experience, or you may feel many things at once. All of these responses are acceptable — there’s no “right” or “wrong” emotional reaction to having a miscarriage. Give yourself time and space to process your feelings, and don’t judge yourself.
Sharing your experience and your feelings with supportive family and friends can be beneficial, and you may be surprised to find that others in your circle have also experienced a miscarriage in their lives. If you don’t have friends and family to lean on, joining a support group may help you to deal with your feelings. And if you have a partner, keep the lines of communication open. Remember that they, too, have suffered a loss and need space and support to process the emotions accompanying this.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, or if your relationship is under strain, don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. Depression and anxiety are common reactions after a miscarriage, and a therapist can help you deal with the emotional aftermath of a miscarriage in a constructive way.
What if You’ve Experienced Multiple Miscarriages?
Having one miscarriage doesn’t mean that you’ll have another, but it isn’t uncommon to have two miscarriages in a row. And as heartbreaking as a miscarriage may be, it doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have any type of fertility problem. Most people with recurrent pregnancy loss (multiple miscarriages) will go on to have a healthy pregnancy, and fewer than half of these miscarriages can be traced to an obvious cause.
If you’ve had three or more miscarriages, however, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. Certain medical problems, such as uncontrolled diabetes or thyroid dysfunction, can increase your chances of having a miscarriage, as can other issues, such as uterine fibroids, autoimmune disorders, or genetic problems. These can be diagnosed and treated by a professional.
Getting Pregnant after a Miscarriage
It’s wise to abstain from sex for the first couple of weeks after a miscarriage to avoid infection. Beyond that, whether to try again and when is a personal decision. It can take up to six weeks for your normal menstrual cycle to resume, and some research suggests that people who conceive within six months of having a miscarriage are less prone to complications than those who don’t. That said, getting pregnant after a miscarriage really hinges on your feelings and whether you and your partner feel it’s the right time for you. Some people may be ready as soon as normal menstruation begins, while others may feel they need much longer to come to terms with their loss.
Recovering from a miscarriage is a process that can’t be rushed. Our fertility specialists can answer your questions and concerns, reassure you, and help you plan your next steps. Schedule your consultation today.