Dealing with a loss

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It's a cruel reality that some pregnancies don't come to term. The loss of a pregnancy, no matter how early, involves more than just the loss of a fetus.

A woman feels a bond with her baby early on. Feelings of disappointment, guilt, anger, and sadness are all common and part of the grieving process.

What causes miscarriage?

Between 15 and 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, most in the first trimester and sometimes before the woman even knows she's pregnant. The risk of miscarriage drops after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, but it can happen up to 20 weeks. After that, a pregnancy loss is called a stillbirth.

In many cases, doctors can't tell what causes a woman to miscarry. Most miscarriages happen because the fertilized egg in the uterus does not develop normally. More than half of miscarriages are caused by problems with the fetus's chromosomes.

It's normal to wonder if you did something to cause your miscarriage, but try not to blame yourself or your partner. It may help you to know that a miscarriage is not caused by emotional stress, exercise, or sex.

However, the following may increase the risk of miscarriage:

Grieving after a loss

It is normal to go through a grieving process after losing a pregnancy, especially if this wasn't your first miscarriage or you feel like you've done everything "right."

Each woman grieves in her own way. Although some women are able to return quickly to life's daily demands, you may not be ready. Give yourself plenty of time to heal and don't pressure yourself to move past the grief too soon.

The loss, in addition to the hormonal swings that result from a miscarriage, can cause depression. If you have symptoms of depression that last for more than a couple of weeks, let your doctor know.

Also, keep in mind that your partner may not experience the loss in that same way as you. Share your feelings with each other and try not to judge yourself or your partner for coping differently.

Reach out to those closest to you for comfort and support. Consider joining a support group so you can talk about your feelings with other grieving parents. Being around others who have had similar experiences can help.

Moving on

Try to focus on the future. A healthy, full-term pregnancy is possible for most women who have miscarried. When you're ready to try getting pregnant again, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend waiting until you've had at least 1-3 normal menstrual periods.

References: Copyrighted material of The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.; The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.

Reviewed by: Jeff Convissar, MD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

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