Table of Contents
Healing grief and sadness © Martyn Carruthers
Miscarriages happen during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy.
After 20 weeks, a spontaneous abortion is usually called stillbirth.
About 20% of all human pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth.
Deaths of babies often have heavy consequences on family members.
People affected by a miscarriage or still-birth may feel disconnected from their friends and partners, from their families and communities, and from their God. Miscarriages and cot deaths can replace joy with depression and withdrawal.
Does Miscarriage, Still-Birth or Crib Death affect You?
If you suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, you not only lost a baby, you suffered a death in the family, perhaps without the emotional closure of a funeral. You may have felt isolated with grief and depression. We help people manage such consequences.
The loss of a baby can result in guilt, depression, mourning, shame, self hatred, insomnia, anger and aggression in the parents … and in siblings (especially the next born). We can help people sort out their emotions and relationship problems with parents, living children and other family members.
Crib death refers to the sudden, unexpected death of a baby, without a known illness, typically under six months of age, usually while sleeping. We also offer help and counseling following a cot death or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Emotions following Miscarriage, Stillbirth or Crib Death
People may minimize and invalidate early miscarriages, but it is their bonds with the unborn babies, not the duration of the pregnancies, that seem to determine the grief, loneliness and sometimes depresson. Such stress may affect not only the parents, but also the siblings – especially the next born child.
Do you still suffer following a miscarriage or still-birth?
- Are you easily depressed?
- Are you taking care of yourself?
- Do you hold you back from intimacy?
- Do you experience recurring dreams?
- Do you feel anger, grief, shame or guilt?
- Do you hear babies crying when none are near?
- Do you try to ‘turn off’ your feelings or memories?
- Do you feel chronic anxiety with no apparent cause?
- Do you feel detached from your parents, family or spouse?
- Do you feel uncomfortable around babies or pregnant women?
Are other children affected?
Following a miscarriage or stillbirth, siblings may experience depression, obsessions about babies, or other disorders, and carry these symptoms into adulthood. A child who identifies with a lost sibling may show predictable unpleasant symptoms. (People who identify with dead, missing or vanishing twins may have similar symptoms.)
All my life I felt guilty. During our sessions I realized that I always felt a dead presence in front of me … felt like an older sibling … felt like an older brother. My parents won’t talk about it but you helped me deal with it, and now I can better enjoy life … Idaho
Consequences don’t care about good intentions!
We help people resolve emotional conflicts and relationship problems following children’s deaths.
A 13-year study of pregnancy-associated deaths, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that the maternal mortality rate associated with abortion is 3 times higher than the maternal mortality rate associated with pregnancies carried to term.
Children’s relationship problems show up as inappropriate behavior and strong emotions, although these emotional problems may be latent until adolescence.
- Anger (I am entangled with a victim)
- Dissociation (I lose access to my self)
- Anxiety (I am entangled with an ignored hero)
- Sadness (I am enmeshed with a dead person)
- Conflict (I am entangled with two people in conflict)
Life gives Birth to Life
Most mature people want to find partners and raise babies to independence. Adults who cannot have children may may dedicate themselves to some social or religious cause or find substitutes for partnership and children, obsess about helping children … or may suffer depression.
When I told my young son about my miscarriage – he cried for days. He said that
his brother had died and asked why the baby died and not him? Washington
Causes of Miscarriage and Still-Birth
The causes of spontaneous abortion include:
- Genetic: Chromosome abnormalities
- Hormones: Women with hormonal irregularities
- Infections: Some illnesses such as German measles
- Accidents & Violence: Severe pressures to the abdomen
- Drug Use: Smoking, alcohol, some painkillers and illegal drugs
- Anatomical: A weak or irregular womb (uterus) or large fibrosis
- Ectopic Pregnancy: About 1% of pregnancies are not in the uterus.
Who really Suffers?
Children require endless attention, time and love. Some miscarriages may seem to make sense – for example if a fetus was deformed. But emotional consequences may not care how logical were the intentions. Other children and family members may suffer grief, stress and depression as a consequence of miscarriage.
I was pregnant and we told everyone who would listen. We learned everything we could about pregnancy and baby health. Then I started bleeding and then had a miscarriage …
we were still devastated two years later. You helped us a lot. Ireland
Men and Miscarriage
Miscarriages often make men feel nervous. Not only are would-be fathers upset about the loss, they may not know what to say and they may feel guilty because they had conflicts about whether or not they wanted a baby at this time.
Discussing and validating feelings after a miscarriage is relationship first aid that men may avoid. If there is too much stress in your relationship, our couples coaching can help you both work through your emotions and improve your partnership.
Emotional Consequences of Miscarriage and Stillbirth
If a person feels attached to an unborn baby, and that baby dies, negative emotions are likely to include anger, disappointment, grief, sadness and feeling isolated.
During pregnancy, most parents seem to create imprints of the imagined characteristics of their unborn children. If the child is lost, parents can grieve their dead child and recover those parts of themselves that they invested in their imprints before they can fully connect to a subsequent child.
A subsequent child may be seen as a substitute or a sad reminder of the (often idealized) dead child – and feel confused about who he or she really is. If a subsequent child unconsciously bonds to a dead baby, there are many predictable symptoms.
I don’t regret my abortions … you don’t see anything bad. My problems were gone and I can keep on having fun … my boyfriends are grateful … I will have children when I am ready. Boston
I emailed you about my abortions years ago. Since then I got married … I have had three
miscarriages in two years … could they be connected to my abortions? Boston
Grief, Stress and Depression
Since you started reading this page, a few thousand women have had miscarriages and still-births. Many of those lost pregnancies will result in negative emotions and relationship problems that the families do not understand and cannot resolve.