As a midwife and herbalist, I get lots of calls from women who are in the midst of a miscarriage, as well as from friends or loved ones who want to know how to support someone heal after miscarriage. Finding out you are pregnant usually spurs a whole host of emotions, ranging from elation to sheer terror. Some pregnancies are planned and very much wanted, and others are a surprise and the timing is way off. No matter where we find ourselves on the spectrum, it is often a very confusing and painful experience – both physically and emotionally – to miscarry.
But you are not alone. Studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage, with 85% of spontaneous miscarriages occurring in the first trimester (weeks 1-12). That is 1 in 5 pregnancies that end in miscarriage. "Chemical pregnancies" may account for 50-75% of all miscarriages. This occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, resulting in bleeding that occurs around the time of her expected period. (1)
Physical Care and Comfort Measures
Taking care of your body, or knowing how to help someone who is trying to heal after miscarriage, can ease some of the physical symptoms. The first of these healing steps revolve around physical care and comfort during or after miscarriage.
1. Rest. Rest is paramount! Get help around the house with preparing meals and household chores so you can stay off your feet and get the rest you need.
2. Herbs. There are so many ways herbs can support you now. Cramp bark for the cramping. Yarrow for the blood loss. Red raspberry leaf tea is always good to nourish your body and tonify your uterus. Red raspberry also helps with the blood loss and maintains good iron levels. Motherwort is another wonderful herb to help with your bleeding and to support your mood. Nurtured Mother has most of these herbs and is very effective at easing the pain of the cramps while still maintaining good uterine tone, which is important while you heal.
3. Compress. Abdominal cramps and headaches are very common during a miscarriage. If you are cramping and are uncomfortable, you can place a hot compress on your abdomen and low back and a cold compress on your head for headaches.
4. Monitor. The two primary medical concerns with a miscarriage are blood loss and infection. At home, monitor your vital signs the best you can. The first sign of infection is a rapid pulse, elevated temperature of over 100.4, abdominal tenderness, and a foul smell to your discharge. If you feel concerned at all check with your midwife or doctor. Many midwives, much like myself, do house calls. Get your iron levels checked after your miscarriage because you probably bled more than you are used to during your monthly menstruation.
5. Baths. Since blood loss and infection are the top on the list of concerns then proper hygiene is essential. One way to care for yourself is to prepare herb baths and vaginal steams. You can add yarrow, rosemary, lavender, sage, garlic, shepherd's purse and sea salt to your baths and steams. The combination of these herbs make a great antibacterial anti-hemorrhagic blend.
6. Nourishment. Nourishment and hydration are foundational to your healing process! Eat healthy fruits, veggies, and whole foods. Especially in a time like this, you can enjoy comfort foods like chickpeas, coconut milk, and dark chocolate. It is a time to be mindful of some things to avoid such as, sugar, alcohol, red meat, and dairy because all of these can cause more inflammation. Your body is in a state of healing and recuperation and inflammatory foods can cause more pain and discomfort.
7. Abstain. Avoid sex until you stop bleeding to prevent infection. It is a good idea to give your body a few months to recover completely and have regular cycles before trying to conceive. Even though as many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage, recommendations for getting pregnant afterward are all over the map. Many doctors tell women to wait until after a normal menstrual cycle, while others advise waiting up to 18 months. The World Health Organization recommends waiting at least six months (3).
8. Iron. After you stop bleeding, your cycle should return and you will start to feel more like yourself again. If you still feel pale and have low energy, get your iron levels checked out. Sometimes after a miscarriage, women are anemic, which weakens the immune system and puts a huge damper on your mood and energy levels. Nourishing herbal infusions of nettles and red raspberry leaf are helpful to improve your iron and energy levels.
Mental and Spiritual Care
Miscarriage is intense for your body and can leave you feeling fragile physically and emotionally. From a mental health point of view, up to 1 in 5 women who experience miscarriage have anxiety levels similar to people attending psychiatric outpatient services, and up to one-third of women attending specialist clinics as a result of miscarriage are clinically depressed (2).
9. Space. To facilitate healing, I recommend creating a container of safety for yourself and your partner. What I mean by this is that you must allow yourself to take the time to cry to grieve and express your deep feelings. Please don’t try to jump right back to your regular life and pretend like it never happened. But at the same time, allow yourself to move through your grief as a way of moving forward with your life. It can be draining to you and your loved ones if you stay in a perpetual cocoon of sadness. There will come a time when you will be ready to seek out other ways to support your healing process.
10. Share. Talk about what you are experiencing and your what ifs. Give yourself permission to "go there” with a person that you trust, who is a good listener, and has a healthy perspective. You can also call your midwife or doctor and process your experience with them.
11. Partner. One important thing to remember is that your partner has experienced loss, too. Connect with him or her. They may not express himself like you do, but they are grieving and are concerned about you. The stages of grief include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There is no right or wrong way to grieve; it is a natural and personal process that is experienced.
12. Honor. Find a soulful way to honor your pregnancy, baby, and birth. I encourage you to get creative and have a loving ceremony to release the baby and say goodbye. Some ideas are naming the baby, lighting candles and floating them down the river, or releasing lanterns or balloons into the sky. Maybe make a fire, or plant a special plant or butterfly garden to honor your experience.
13. Bless. Give yourself an abdominal massage and bless your body and womb. Give gratitude for all the beauty that is within you. You are not broken. Your body did not fail.
14. Move. Gentle movement is essential to help you move through your stages of grief. Yoga, tai chi, walk with a friend, or dance with yourself and/or your partner.
15. Herbs. There are tons of herbs that can support your mood and hormones. Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha are appropriate here. Woman’s Balance Tea is filled with nourishing herbs, adaptogenic herbs, and immune supporting herbs
If you or someone you care about has had a miscarriage, I hope you will feel safe and supported in our community.
*This post is not intended to treat diagnose or cure- Please seek medical attention if you are soaking 2 pads in 30 minutes, your temperature is 100.1 degrees or above and/or experiencing intense pain, or feel depressed.
(1) American Pregnancy Association - Miscarriage: Signs, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention, 2014.
(2) Tommy’s - Miscarriage and Ectopic pregnancy statistics, 2015.
(3) Heath.com Anne Harding - Miscarriage? Try Again ASAP: Study Suggests 2010.