Occasionally I get questions about my miscarriages that come from a place of “could it happen to me?” They want to know what they can do to not end up in my shoes, or the comfort of knowing I have some sort of extreme weird situation that will never happen to them. But while I totally understand, I can’t give them that because miscarriage is actually pretty normal. So instead I offer advice for women who find themselves in the aftermath of their first miscarriage.
You are not alone.
It probably feels like you are, especially if you’re watching your Facebook feed explode with hundreds of perfect adorable babies. But you’re not. In fact, many of those perfect adorable babies were preceded by a miscarriage, maybe multiple. It’s not something a lot of people talk about, but if you start you’ll find people come out of the woodwork. Friends you didn’t even know were trying. Friends with multiple children and even more miscarriages. Older women, younger women, those with seemingly perfect lives, and those who are complete disasters. Miscarriage is surprisingly indiscriminate, for better and for worse.
You might have postpartum depression.
This one is a real kicker if it happens to you. You don’t get a kid, but you do get the debilitating depression that comes with it. This isn’t just the normal sadness that is to be expected when something tragic happens, it goes beyond that. It’s the feeling that even when you try to look at the bright side of things your awful brain just keeps dragging you down. It’s lying awake at night thinking “this is pointless, I wish I was dead. Wait what? I don’t believe that, why do I keep thinking it?” It’s being unable to feel the joy you know is there. The only good news is that for many women it passes as their hormone levels return to normal.
Find a way to keep your head above water.
Even if you don’t have postpartum depression you’ll probably be a mess of emotions. That’s normal and healthy, but find ways to keep it from overwhelming you. For some people this includes a therapist, or diving into a new hobby, or leaning hard on some close friends. For me it’s exercise (ok and therapy). Strategies I have tried and don’t recommend include drinking and binge eating.
There is probably nothing wrong with you.
The statistics vary depending on whom you are talking to, but if you’ve had a miscarriage the odds are nothing is wrong with you. An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Even 3 in a row like me is not out of the statistical realm of “just unlucky,” which is why most doctors hold off on the fancy/invasive tests until you’ve had multiple. By all means talk to your doctor about next steps to make sure everything is in ship shape, but unless you’ve got other suspicious stuff going on they probably won’t do a ton right away.
Keep taking your prenatal vitamins.
This is where the science gets a little sketchy, because running randomized double blind studies on pregnant / miscarrying women is not only unethical, but damned near impossible. So doctors end up dipping into the “doesn’t hurt, might help” category. Pretty much all of the vitamin supplements fall into this scientific gray area.
While failing to take your vitamins does not cause miscarriage, there are a handful of conditions which are greatly improved by increasing vitamin intake. Conveniently, most of these vitamins are found in prenatals. There are other supplements to consider, with considerably more argument as to their usefulness, but prenatal vitamins are pretty much universally recommended.
As for my own story, some days I feel better than others. Some days have more hope, some have less. I’ve reached the point where I’m getting fancy / invasive tests, and to be honest it’s not super fun. I’m definitely glad we didn’t start all this right after the first miscarriage. I spend way too much of my time at doctors’ offices and labs, and even more time googling weird medical terms like “antiphospholipid syndrome.” I have a meeting with a Reproductive Endocrinologist who will likely do things like inject my uterus with radioactive dye to see if it’s shaped weird. And despite all that I’m still within the odds of “could just be bad luck.” It’s not all bad though, and every time my toddler throws a tantrum I think “yeah, maybe it’s OK to wait a little longer.”