by Clara Hinton
Even though a miscarriage is a shared experience between a man and woman, this type of early pregnancy loss is also a highly personal loss to a woman because of the direct physical and emotional impact the miscarriage has on the mother.
When a miscarriage occurs, a woman will often seem different to those around her almost immediately. The changes will become very evident to her husband. He will often say, "My wife had a miscarriage," but then he will not know what to do or say beyond that statement.
It is important for a man to understand some of the immediate impacts a miscarriage have on a woman. Because of the rapid physical changes that had been taking place to accommodate a pregnancy, a woman's body is now just as rapidly moving in reverse back to a non-pregnant state. Hormone levels are changing rapidly, causing very noticeable mood swings. Tears often occur at the most unexpected moments. Outbursts of anger are also quite common. It can take several weeks for hormone levels to get back to a normal pre-pregnancy state.
Aside from the most obvious, the feeling of emptiness that accompanies the non-pregnant uterus, a woman will often experience very heavy bleeding when having a miscarriage, along with passing large clots and tissue. This generally will last for a week, and these physical occurrences can be quite frightening. How much blood is too much? How large is a large clot? What is happening to my body? Often, a woman will say that aside from feeling empty, she feels like she is a failure, and has lost all control over her own body.
Depending on how many weeks along in the pregnancy she was, a woman may have some breast engorgement for several days. Her breasts will fill up just as though she had delivered a full-term baby, and her body will prepare for breast-feeding. Dealing with breast engorgement can be very painful, often requiring tight wrapping of the breasts to prevent the coming on of milk. This is also a very emotional time, reminding a woman that she will not be placing a newborn baby at her breasts, which are prepared to nourish a baby.
Many times the woman has seen the passing of the fetal sac, and this first sight of the developing child will reappear in the form of bad dreams for several weeks. Panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and depression are very common following a miscarriage. It is important for a husband to be very in tune to all of the changes -- physical and emotional -- that take place following a miscarriage.
Because there have been so many physical changes, a woman often wants to delay resuming sexual relations for a while following a miscarriage. Her body has gone through so many changes such as a feeling of fullness in her bladder, morning sickness, cessation of her menstrual period, enlargement and tenderness of her breasts, and extreme fatigue. It can take several weeks for the emotional and physical changes of a miscarriage to allow a woman to feel sexually desirable again. A husband's tenderness and patience greatly aid a woman's overall healing.
The experiences between a man and woman are very different when a miscarriage takes place. It helps so much when a man understands these differences. A husband's presence, understanding, and loving support can make an enormous difference in the emotional and physical healing following an early pregnancy loss. As an added bonus, the marriage will be strengthened, too!
Clara Hinton is a Certified Grief Facilitator, founder of The Silent Grief Website, and the author of four books, including Silent Grief. She is the author of a weekly newletter and has contributed to Christian Woman and Church and Family magazines. Clara speaks on college campuses on grief and is a keynote speaker at women's retreats. She has been interviewed on radio stations across the nation and appeared on various TV programs. Clara is a stay-at-home mother of eleven children and wife of 31 years.
Copyright © Clara Hinton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.