Those that have experienced loss through miscarriage, know how difficult it is; sometimes beyond words. For those who are unfamiliar, it can seem like not such a big deal, thinking, or even saying things like “was it really even a baby yet”, “at least it was early on”, “it was just not meant to be” or “you can get pregnant again”. Statements such as these, not only do not bring comfort, they likely make things worse, no matter how well intentioned. To compound the misunderstanding, most miscarriages happen in the first 3 months of a pregnancy, often prior to the mother making the pregnancy known to others. It is incredibly important that loved ones are sensitive to the needs and emotions of a mother, who has experienced loss through miscarriage, and to look to some helpful resources; like pregnancy books, magazines & websites, childbirth educators, midwives and doulas for direction. (1) Utilizing the “ring theory” developed by Psychologist Susan Silk, can help friends and family know what to say and not to say. (2)
Pregnancy is a very vulnerable, tentative time for woman. They are experiencing bodily changes involving hormones and appearance. They are experiencing life changes involving relationships, living arrangements and possibly work adjustments; sometimes affecting their financial situation. All of these changes bring about their own effects; concerns about relationship security, financial stability and ability and major life changes. There are many emotions to process and plans to make. These changes and plans don’t wait for a full term, healthy baby to be born. It all begins to unfold even before a woman knows for certain she is pregnant.
The struggle is often, that people cannot understand the grief over something they don’t see as having happened yet. While the loss might grow with intensity and significance as the baby grows and the realities become closer and clearer, especially with a first baby, there is also loss of what is anticipated. The loss of what will never be. The miscarriage itself can be quite painless and quick or it can be physically painful and sometimes even require intervention if the body isn’t letting go. The most painful, long lasting trauma though, can be facing time and what would have been, had the baby not been lost.
This passive attitude is often the same approach suffering mothers are met with in the health care professionals that are supposed to be caring for them. The idea that miscarriage is a frequent occurrence is even offered as a means of comfort. Women are not offered mementos of their babies, like ultrasound pictures. When inquiring about these items or what will happen to baby’s remains, mothers are usually met with apathetic responses, that sometimes involves lies. The answers, that mothers so often need in order to find some closure, are met with silence or responses that bring more frustration. Once a pregnancy ends and there is no baby and no physical healing to be monitored, medical professionals generally have very little to offer and mothers are often left on their own to navigate emotional recovery.
A big contributor to the reality of this misunderstanding of grief, is the fact that we don’t talk about death in Western civilization. We tend to be very disconnected spiritually in general. Thus, the spirituality of birth and death are a mystery that goes completely unacknowledged. The loss exists not is not only in the event of the miscarriage itself, but in every moment that follows it. Many times, the only thing that finally heals the loss, is another baby. The aching heart, the empty arms, the place in the home and the life events are finally filled. What so many people fail to recognize, whether a pregnancy is planned or not, is that the loss of a baby, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, is still a loss to the woman carrying it. An unplanned pregnancy, even when the circumstances are not ideal, can be just as excruciating a loss as a baby that was hoped and planned for. These types of situation can bring about feelings of guilt and shame. Women who are hoping and preparing for a baby, often feel anxiety and fear over what this loss will mean for the possibility of ever having a baby. They might feel that they have failed, that their body is inadequate or that they did something to cause the death of their unborn baby. (3)
The medical definition of miscarriage speaks specifically to the loss of pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation. Within that definition there are specific labels related to the circumstances of loss. The risk factors of miscarriage are varied and while some seem more obvious, there is no one factor that can definitively predict future pregnancy loss. Age of the mother seems a significant risk of factor. The statistical risk for women aged 20-30 years of age is 8.9%. There is an astounding increases for women age 42 years, of 74.7%. The statistical risk also increases with each consecutive miscarriage; around 20% increase after one miscarriage, 28% increase following two consecutive miscarriages, and 43% when a woman has had three or more consecutive miscarriages. Medical research identifies other factors, such as thrombophilia, antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, being very thin or very overweight and high blood pressure, as reasons for increase in miscarriage occurrence. Other influences in miscarriage are cigarette smoking, large amounts of caffeine use, trauma and malnutrition (4)
In Naturopathic wellness, practitioners have an understanding of how these factors have come to play apart in miscarriage and therefore what can be done to counter these risk factors. Naturopaths and Holistic Doulas have the means to offer healing recommendations that might prevent miscarriage, support a pregnancy in a threatened miscarriage and aid in the event of an incomplete miscarriage, as well as support a grieving mother.
Ideally, a woman should be preparing her body years in advance of pregnancy. Being evaluated for nutritional deficiency and any underlying weaknesses in the body that need to be detoxed, built or supported, is a good place to start. Mothers cannot give their babies what they do not have available. The genetic and developmental issues, that can sometimes result in miscarriage, can be prevented when they involve vitamin and mineral deficiencies, some that go many back generations. These include B Vitamins, including B9/Folate, Iron, Silicea and Zinc. Getting these through clean, organic, whole food sources is ideal, but sometimes high quality herbal supplementation is the only way to adequately get enough into the body. Other herbs can help support any pregnancy, like Red Raspberry Leaf and help avoid miscarriage. (5) Being advised on exposure of teratogenic substances is also extremely important in avoiding developmental defects. Medical doctors will sometimes inform mothers to avoid cigarettes, alcohol, recreational drugs, but fail to include other harmful things, like over the counter drugs including aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen (6), antihistamine and hemorrhoid medications. Vaccines are not safe, particularly for the unborn child and increase the risk of miscarriage. (7) EMF pollution should also be avoided as much as possible, especially cellphones and other devices that come close to or in direct contact with mothers body (8)(9). Avoiding unnecessary diagnostic test that will not change the course of a pregnancy or influence the things that will be done, should be avoided. Amniocentesis increases the risk of spontaneous miscarriage (10). Ultrasound exposure may also increase the risk of miscarriage (11). There are many Homeopathic Remedies that can be given in cases of chronic tendency toward miscarriage; Caulophyllum (Blue Cohosh), Ruta Graves, Sabina and Sepia. For threatened miscarriage, Aconite, Arnica, Aresenicum, and Ignatia are some of the remedies that can be used. There are others, such as Arnica, Pulsatilla and Kali Carb, that can be used to assist in the completion of a miscarriage.
- Holistic Midwifery by Anne Frye (book)