Miscarriage and Maternal Grief

Tess Thompson

For most women, miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is an unanticipated occurrence, which is many times followed by feelings of extreme sadness. It is not only the attachment or disruption in planning a family, but also the doubts regarding reproductive incompetence that may cause maternal grief.

Most miscarriages happen in the first three months of the pregnancy period. Miscarriages are also known to occur in the first four months, too. Miscarriages that occur beyond four months of the pregnancy period are classified as still birth.

Maternal instincts start developing immediately after conception. This change is accompanied by a great deal of hormonal changes in a mother’s body. It is probably these changes that magnify emotional responses such as despair and inadequacy.

The period between conception and miscarriage obviously has an effect on the physical condition of the mother and also plays a role in the emotional distress felt by a mother. Maternal attachment to the unborn child progresses as the pregnancy approaches term. This notion is supported by research that has found a higher degree of emotional suffering in late miscarriages.

Presence of children seems to act as protection, and childless women are more susceptible to miscarriage-related grief. This negates the earlier suggestion that depressive symptoms following a miscarriage are linked to negative life situations.

Other factors that may affect the degree of grief include wanted or unwanted pregnancy and previous history of miscarriages. Logically, it would appear that miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy would cause a greater degree of emotional distress, as women with unwanted pregnancy already have elevated symptoms. But there are reports that suggest equally depressive symptoms in both wanted and unwanted pregnancies.

Miscarriages happen due to a number of causes that include genetics, hormonal, immunological, infection and anatomical issues. Emotional distress after miscarriage is often caused due to maternal attachment and a sense of guilt at having done something that you should not have done. Denying miscarriage grief by forcing yourself to believe that the baby was not yet a real baby is not the right way to restore your emotional health. Allow yourself some time to grieve, share your grief with friends and loved ones and remember your baby. Another pregnancy can be of great help in emotional healing in such cases.

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