10:39 08 April 2005
For most women, having a baby and starting a family can be one of the most rewarding and exciting times of their lives - while being a bit scary at the same time. But unfortunately, for a significant number of women, the expectations of raising children can be dashed through miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death.
It is heartbreaking to receive so many problems from people who almost casually throw in a line like: "I had a miscarriage last month" or "our baby died a year ago".
So how do we come to terms with this loss and find ways to move on?
A miscarriage can be an extremely upsetting experience for the woman, her partner and the whole family. Around one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and one in three women experience a miscarriage at some time in their lives. Around one in 10 women experience more than one miscarriage. Regardless of how common this experience is it is still not a subject that people talk about much. This can leave the people who have just experienced a miscarriage feeling very alone and isolated.
Like any loss, miscarriage can stir up a range of feelings. These can include sadness, depression, loss of concentration and motivation, a sense of bereavement, poor or constant sleep, anger, a sense of guilt and failure, pain and/or jealousy around other women with children, loss of interest in sex, loneliness and isolation. For most women and their partners, such feelings gradually or suddenly lift after a few weeks but may resurface around the due date of the birth or the anniversary of the miscarriage.
The best way to get through your grief is to allow yourself to experience these feelings and to find someone sympathetic to talk to about them. This could be a friend or relative or perhaps your partner. Remember that your partner is likely to be distressed as well and will need their own support.
If you or your partner, or indeed any family member, does not start to recover significantly after a few months, it is probably worth seeking professional help. Approach your GP in the first instance for more information. You can also get support and information from the Miscarriage Association.
Stillbirth and neonatal loss of your baby can be a devastating experience. Instead of expecting the joy of a birth, you are experiencing the grief of a death. You may feel acutely depressed and/or angry and suffer any or all of the reactions described above.
As with any bereavement, you need to allow yourself to experience whatever you are feeling and gain support from sympathetic people. You may feel very shocked at first, but it will be important in terms of getting through your loss to be able to say goodbye to your baby. Some professionals advise that clothing and caring for the baby following the stillbirth can help with the grieving process. Taking photos of your baby that you can look at later may also help. You will need to bury or cremate your baby and it can be helpful to have a funeral of some kind. Although this is likely to be an extremely painful event, it will enable you to say goodbye to your baby properly.
Again, it can be helpful to get professional support if your grief goes on for months or even years. You can arrange counselling through your GP, contact your local branch of Cruse (a specialist bereavement counselling service) or contact the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society.
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