In the wake of a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, mothers can expect to feel the same grief-based emotions typical to any major loss. This usually starts off with shock and denial, then leads to other complex emotions that may occur in no specific order.
These feelings could include anger, guilt, sadness, confusion, betrayal, or shame. Mothers that may have had negative feelings about their pregnancy could even feel relief, which can be another confusing emotional state.
Knowing and being able to identify these common symptoms can help you manage them, and healthily process your depression while honoring your loss. Here's what to know about depression after miscarriage, as well as what you can do if you or your loved one is experiencing it:
1. Recognize potential symptoms of depression related to a miscarriage situation
After experiencing a miscarriage/pregnancy loss, women may have the following symptoms of depression:
- inappropriate guilt
- Loss of joy in activities
- Difficulty sleeping and/or eating
- Feeling irritable/on edge
- Social isolation (to avoid questions about pregnancy)
Other symptoms include:
- Anger: Women may also experience anger towards medical professionals, themselves, or their partners.
- Anxiety: Many women also experience anxiety as an after effect of miscarriage, particularly if the women is trying to conceive again.
- OCD: Some women may develop obsessive-compulsive behaviors in efforts to research reasons behind their loss or to prevent future miscarriages.
2. Know that grieving is a common and necessary part of healing
Grieving after a major loss is a common, even necessary, process in accepting that loss has occurred. This cycle can vary in length of time, and may also vary based on how long the woman was pregnant, or if IVF or other processes were involved. However, talking with a licensed perinatal therapist can help you determine whether your grief is temporary, or turning into depression.
Note that it is common for women who have dealt with fertility struggles to have a higher incidence of depression/anxiety symptoms, due to the chronic stressful nature of fertility treatment.
3. Communicate as much as possible with your partner after miscarriage
Communication is very important after pregnancy loss. Often, partners will feel guilty and may sometimes blame each other. Sometimes this may come out or stay hidden.
Typically, one partner or both may avoid talking about the loss, which can make grieving feel more lonely. Couples may be ashamed and reluctant to tell friends/family, so social isolation can be common. It is also normal for each partner to grieve differently, which can cause conflict if one partner feels like the other one "doesn't care," or conversely, "cares too much."
This disconnect can further intensify symptoms of isolation, so couples should make efforts to maintain physical connection and intimacy, scheduling date nights and time together. Attending medial appointments together is important to show investment and support.
Note that it can also be especially helpful to seek couples counseling during this period to navigate challenges.
4. Seek professional advice to address anxiety concerns
It's best to seek a therapist who has taken trainings in perinatal mood disorders and is trained in either cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy. Research has shown that these are the best two approaches when working with this population.
It may also be helpful to add in other treatment techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, medication management, and support groups.
5. Find supports, both online and in-person
Support groups can be very helpful, either in person or online. Blogging or journaling can be an excellent way to get in touch and process emotions related to grief/loss.
Finally, if you are a friend or family member of someone who has experienced miscarriage, it can be very helpful to just lend a supportive ear, make plans to bring over a meal, or do some errands for the grieving couple. Loved ones who have been through a pregnancy loss themselves can offer a very valuable perspective, if they are willing to share. It can also be helpful to ask the couple directly what kind of help they need. This way the couple can advocate for themselves in a way that might feel within their control.
If you're experiencing depression after miscarriage, know that you deserve to be well – and therapy can provide you with a way to honor your pregnancy while finding your own path to healing. If you're ready to look for support, you can find perinatal specialists near you on Zencare.