13 Steps to Care for Yourself Comprehensively After a Miscarriage
October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. Approximately 25% of all women will go through a miscarriage in their journey to become a mother. After my miscarriage, my world changed forever.
For many people, a miscarriage is the most painful experience they have ever lived through, and the pain never truly leaves. Taking care of yourself after a miscarriage is important for emotional and physical healing.
I had a miscarriage 3 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. About 2 weeks after my miscarriage, I started having feelings of dread. It’s not uncommon for women to feel anxiety after their miscarriages. Their bodies and hormones have flipped upside-down twice within just a few months—they not only have to deal with the physical aspects of miscarrying, but also the emotional ones.
I wrote about my miscarriage here in this post. It was an experience that I would never wish on anyone, and I felt no one understood me. When this is the case, be the one to advocate for yourself and what you need to heal.
When caring for yourself after a miscarriage, you want to heal holistically. Your body, mind, emotions, and spirit—ALL OF IT—need to heal! Here are 13 ways how to heal after a miscarriage—things to consider for bringing yourself back into health and balance following a pregnancy loss.
1. Make sure you don’t have any complications.
This is an essential part of staying healthy after a miscarriage and should be step number 1. After my pregnancy loss, I kept in touch with my midwife by phone, but because of my mild symptoms, she felt it wasn’t necessary to do any tests or a D&C.
Following a miscarriage, even if you think it’s a normal, natural miscarriage, you will want to follow-up with your doctor. Things like bleeding so heavy that it soaks a pad in an hour, or a foul smell from down there can mean complications or infection. Plenty of medical websites can point you in the direction of what’s considered normal or not.
Your reproductive system is particularly sensitive after a miscarriage, so follow your doctor’s orders. Typically, this will mean being on pelvic rest (nothing in your vagina) until the bleeding has stopped. No baths until the bleeding has stopped.
I bled for a week, and continued to spot occasionally for an additional 3 weeks. Two weeks is pretty average, unfortunately, so if it lasts longer than your period, that would not be unusual.
2. Take as much time off of work as you need after a miscarriage.
My employer offers 3 days of sick leave without a note required. Between 4 and 10 days, a doctor’s note is required, and for more than 10 days, they like to have prior approval (for things like scheduled surgeries.)
My miscarriage started when I was at a workshop for my job. About 40 of my colleagues were there, and they saw me. They knew I hadn’t been feeling well, but I’m sure they were surprised when I just took off.
I only planned on taking Monday and Tuesday off. We were scheduled to have a meeting on Wednesday with our entire staff. They’re an amazing bunch of people, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be probed with questions about where I was or what happened to me at the workshop. Most of them are only acquaintances. My mentor had already asked casually if I was alright (he knew that I had called in sick 3 days in a row.)
From research on forums, it seems like everyone takes their own time getting back into work. Many women took between 2 and 4 days off. One woman took a month off for her first miscarriage and 2 weeks off for her second.
Sometimes, trying to get back to normal life can help, and sometimes taking some time off is what you need. The honest truth is that only YOU can tell yourself how much time you need after a miscarriage.
Talk to your doctor and get a note if you need.
3. Go to Counseling or Therapy
My own emotions over my miscarriage include: Guilt (lots and lots of guilt), blame, grief, worry, fear, frustration, anger, powerlessness, apathy, numbness, and many, many more.
One of my go-to solutions for basically anything is talking about it, and I have been in counseling and therapy, unashamed, many times in my life. I decided to make an appointment with our free counseling service that our school system has for its employees (yeah, free is pretty cool). My husband decided to go with me.
We sat and talked with the counselor, explaining why we came to see him and all the things we had gone through recently. He asked us questions like, “What do you do for yourselves, or as hobbies?” He asked Phil if he was supportive to me since I’ve been going through all of these emotions. (The answer was “Yes” of course!)
The counselor gave us some suggestions of things to work on and said he felt we were on the right track with our healing. He didn’t feel we needed to come back, but he told us to schedule another appointment if we needed anything.
It was reassuring that we were doing positive, healthy things to heal. And if we hadn’t been positive or healthy, then it would have been even MORE important that we had gone. He could have helped us monitor our feelings, find positive outlets, and go easy on ourselves.
This brings me to #4…
4. Allow yourself to grieve after miscarriage.
When I got divorced, I downed a third of a bottle of scotch and wrote out all my feelings as I sobbed. And that was it. It took a few hours and I was done. The marriage had felt over for months, years even, so I had plenty of time to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the loss. The last thing to do was cut the cord and move on.
With the loss of my first pregnancy, I was completely unprepared. I had spent three weeks turning my life upside-down to make space and time for a new baby, in my environment, in my mind, and in my heart. Three weeks doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but they were the longest three weeks of my life.
I spent plenty of time crying, especially that first night. It was nice to have a shoulder to cry on—my husband was wonderful, even if he was upset too. I would hear a song that I planned to sing as a lullaby and I would start crying again. I even saw a terrible car accident when I was out once and started crying, thinking of how terrible it would be to lose Phil. (And then of course I texted him every 30 second for the next ten minutes until he texted me back and I knew that he was okay.)
I took it hard.
Every instance of grief is going to be different. So allow yourself to do what feels right. Don’t hold those tears in. Let it all out.
5. Acknowledge all your feelings.
Throughout the process of healing after my miscarriage, I didn’t just feel grief, I also felt powerless, frustrated, angry, guilty, anxious, depressed and myriad other emotions.
It helps to keep a journal or at least give yourself some time every day to reflect on how you are feeling. When I was feeling frustrated or angry, I would take those emotions out on the people (or animals) around me. (My poor dogs… if they so much as flinched while they were waiting for their food, I made them wait longer while they obediently sat there drooling.) If I would finally acknowledge that how I was feeling had nothing to do with them, I was able to calm down a bit.
Rely on your partner or a close friend or family member. I’m lucky to have a guy that really cares, and just about every day, he would ask me how I was feeling and if I was doing okay. When the heavy bleeding stopped and I was finally able to take a bath, he was a little concerned. (He knows that I usually only take a bath when I’m stressed out or feeling a little off.) So I sat down with him and told him about the anger that I had been experiencing.
If you feel normal, don’t assume that you’re back to your normal self. There were several times over the past month that I felt completely recovered, only to discover a day or two later that I was suppressing my anxiety or rage.
Moving on takes time, and don’t be surprised to discover that you’re still having residual feelings even after months or years.
6. Eating Right After Your Miscarriage
Now that we’ve taken care of the emotional side of the miscarriage, let’s focus a little more on the physical aspects. I strongly believe that healthy eating can help a majority of the problems that we suffer from, both physically and mentally.
- Leafy greens for vitamins and fiber.
- Blueberries and chocolate have a lot of antioxidants (but make sure you buy organic!).
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, and Apple Cider Vinegar have good bacteria your digestive system needs.
- Apples have lots of vitamin C.
- Eat bananas for potassium.
- Your body needs protein, so eat meat, fish, eggs (but avoid tofu that is soy-based).
- Fish or fish oil has omega-3s that will keep inflammation down.
- Chemicals/Processed Food
- Too much salt
- Bad fats like hydrogenated oils and trans fats
- Dairy (I just limit dairy… I only eat a little cheese or cream)
Caffeine and Alcohol can severely exacerbate anxiety. Even if the caffeine in coffee doesn’t make you jittery, it may be having other side-effects in your brain chemistry that are more subtle. Try laying off the coffee or tea to see how you feel. (You will need to have it out of your system for more than 3 weeks, preferably longer.)
After my miscarriage, I took a multi-vitamin every day, as well as some extras like magnesium, probiotics, and omega-3s.
If you don’t think you can do ALL of those things above at the same time—don’t fear! Even small changes can make the biggest difference! Work on cutting out one bad thing at a time, and replace that bad thing with a good habit. You’ll be on your way in no time!
7. Exercise After your Doctor Says It’s Okay
Exercise can help us heal in many different ways, including energy, anxiety, and sleep.
I think of anxiety as built-up energy that my body does not know what to do with. If I am stationary most of the day, that energy will continue to build up, clogging my energy systems (chi) and creating more stress.
Just like eating right, you don’t have to go crazy to make a huge difference. If you aren’t used to exercising, try to walk 20 minutes 3 times a week. For me, that’s once around the elementary school near our place.
Luckily, when I got pregnant again 3 months later, my hormones made me super motivated to move and stay in shape. So even after the miscarriage, those leftover hormones jump-started my exercise routine.
The best thing to relieving your system of extra energy is to work it off! Even better: the more you exercise, the more “clean” energy your body will generate! It will be easier to get up in the morning, fall asleep at night, and stay focused during the day. You will be more balanced.
Speaking of sleep…
8. Get plenty of sleep
Unfortunately, sleep is important for helping to get rid of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause poor sleeping, inability to fall asleep, waking up at night, or waking up not feeling rested.
If the grief and anxiety after miscarriage are keeping you up at night, try a few of my favorite products:
Bed buddy & essential oils
I heat the bed buddy up in the microwave, put on a couple drops of oil and sling the bed buddy around my shoulders and neck. The heat helps to diffuse the scent and you’re left feeling relaxed and warm!
Tennis Balls to relieve pain in the back
Watch this video for how to use the tennis balls for hip and back pain, especially if you were having cramps or pain with your miscarriage, this can help tremendously!
This is my favorite bedtime tea. Any of the “sleepytime” or “chamomile” varieties work well too!
Sleep could be, hands down, the most important thing to resetting your brain and clearing your “cache” of all the bad files like stress and overwhelming feelings. Eating right, exercising, and sleeping enough all go hand in hand and enhance the other, so if you work on all three simultaneously (even if just a little) you will notice a huge change.
9. Focus your attention on things that you enjoy.
If you’re like me, I sometimes get so involved with a goal or my career that I forget to do things that I like to do (just for the sake of doing them, without any end in mind). Things like traveling or going someplace new, learning, stand up paddle boarding, rock climbing, hiking, and drawing/painting are all activities that I enjoy doing and I have used to manage stress either now or in the past.
Some other things you might enjoy doing are golf, swimming, yoga, playing music, participating in a team sport, camping, hunting, going to a local night life scene or going dancing… you get the picture.
Watching your favorite show on Netflix is okay and all, but notice that all of the things I listed above were things that you will actively participate in. Watching TV is passive.
It’s important to choose active leisure activities that are… well, active! Being in a dissociative state from passive hobbies will not help regulate your hormones or help bring out of your anxiety in the same way active things will.
Be mindful and be present! Try to get into the state of flow!
10. Lean on the people in your life.
I’ve read so many articles, blogs, and books that discuss the importance of having good relationships in your life. Try these articles on:
Even just talking and venting to your mom, a friend, or your significant other can help let go of all that “built-up energy” I was talking about earlier. Even better, if you can find a community of people who have gone through the same thing you have, you’ll understand that you are not alone!
11. Find a community of women who have gone through miscarriage too
Even if your friends haven’t been through a miscarriage, tell them what’s going on. We had told several of our closest friends and family members that we were pregnant very early on. I had a lot of people checking in on me and making sure that I was alright as I went through the miscarriage.
If you haven’t told anyone that you were pregnant but still want the support of other people, look for a community online like a facebook group dedicated to women who have gone through a miscarriage or miscarriages. Words, even in written form, can be comforting to hear, especially from someone who has gone through the same terrible loss that you have.
12. Set goals (but don’t overdo it!)
My initial reaction to needing to recover from a traumatic experience or anxiety is to stay busy.
Admittedly, I have a tendency to go overboard.
After my miscarriage, I set ridiculous goals for myself for the next few weeks (there was simply not enough time in the day to complete all the things I wanted to!) But it was a good thought!
Keeping your eyes on the future and working toward goals can give you focus, motivation, and positive rewards, which are very important especially after a trauma. Even if the goals are small, feeling that sense of accomplishment is great for the soul—both human part and spirit part.
13. Treat yourself… a little.
Personally, I like to indulge in sweets (chocolate!) and new clothes. I find a measure of enjoyment from those things, so small doses of them can be therapeutic. Finding joy in a few little things can help bring you back to the right path. So I made some brownies and went to Marshalls and found a vest and sweater. It helped me to get out and do some active things to take my mind off everything.
But beware the slippery slope! Don’t over-do it, throwing yourself into indulgences to cover your pain is not the way to go. If I had ONLY eaten brownies or spent hundreds of dollars on new clothes, I’m pretty sure it would have just caused more problems.
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Health is so important, and it’s hard to recover your health, both physical and emotional, after a miscarriage. No matter which path you choose to heal from this terrible loss, make sure that it feels right to you. Stay healthy and find your own new balance and your own new normal.
It’s a hard path, and it will take some time. So go easy on yourself. After a miscarriage, you might want to jump into trying to conceive again right away. If that’s the case, these things listed can help with preparing your body for baby too.
Are you 1 in 4? What did you do after your miscarriage?