Miscarriage is usually a very traumatic experience for everyone concerned, at whatever stage of the pregnancy it occurs. It takes its toll both physically and psychologically. How people deal with the loss is highly individual, and it can be difficult for those around them to understand their pain. The grieving process takes time.
Is there anything you can do to prevent miscarriage? No, not directly. Your body makes its own plan for the new little human being, and all you can do is lead a normal, healthy life and avoid smoking, drugs, alcohol and excessive physical exercise.
Bleeding need not signify miscarriage
Light bleeding early in pregnancy is not unusual and does not necessarily signal miscarriage. However, if you are in any doubt, or if the bleeding becomes heavier or is accompanied with increasing pain, contact a doctor or hospital.
What to do in the event of miscarriage
You can't stop a miscarriage. It normally starts with pains similar to period pain, followed by bleeding. Call the midwife at your maternity clinic, or call the hospital directly.
At the hospital, a gynaecologist will perform an ultrasound scan to determine the state of the pregnancy and whether you have miscarried. If the gynaecologist concludes that you have had or are about to have a miscarriage, you are usually sent home. Otherwise, if the diagnosis is unclear, you will be asked to return later for a check-up.
If the ultrasound shows that the placenta is still inside the uterus, there are usually three possible options:
• To monitor the situation and see how things develop.
• You may be given tablets to induce expulsion and empty the womb completely. In this case, you must be kept under observation so will probably be required to return to hospital.
• You may be given a curettage (a scrape). You will be required to remain in hospital for a few hours after this operation.
Why did I miscarry?
Roughly one third of all confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage. During the first 12 weeks of gestation, the foetus develops quickly and all its vital organs are formed. This is when most abnormalities develop, so most miscarriages occur during this time.
These miscarriages are normally regarded as a natural termination of a pregnancy because something went wrong during the critical initial phase of the baby's development. It can be comforting to know that what happened was due to the foetus not developing normally.
Help after a miscarriage
A miscarriage is often very sad for all concerned. It helps to take your emotions seriously. It usually helps for the two partners to discuss their feelings about what happened, both between themselves and with other people such as a friend, relative or counsellor.
If you want to speak to a psychologist or a counsellor to help work through your feelings and grief, you can contact a maternity clinic, a gynaecology centre or, if you are young, a youth clinic. This regards both the woman who miscarried and her partner.
When can you start trying again?
About a month after the miscarriage, the woman's periods will start again. You can start trying for another pregnancy as soon as your periods have returned and you feel physically and psychologically ready. Having had one miscarriage usually does increase the risk of another one.
Many people wonder why nothing is done to investigate the cause of the miscarriage. But the fact is that miscarriage is a normal part of the reproductive process if it only happens to you once. A small percentage of women may miscarry repeatedly. In this case, they should consult a gynaecologist for an examination.
Asking questions and seeing the foetus
After a miscarriage, it is natural to feel grief and have a lot of questions. Is there something wrong with me or us? Will we be able to conceive again? Do we dare try?
It is helpful to speak to a professional at the hospital after a miscarriage. You might be asked if you want to see the baby, depending on when in the pregnancy the miscarriage happened. This is usually only possible with late miscarriages. Some parents choose not to, but those who do are often pleased about their choice afterwards.