Pregnancy losses include a number of difficult experiences, including infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, unexpected fetal anomaly, and birth trauma, among others. I approach pregnancy losses and bereavement comprehensively.
Some losses result in death. Other losses feel like a death. Some losses are symbolic. When a woman is told that she will need infertility treatment, or that her baby has an anomaly, she is experiencing profound loss. Often people experience more than one type of loss in their reproductive lives. This can also include complications in pregnancy or trauma during labor and delivery.
You do not “get over” a pregnancy loss, but you can integrate the experience into what is hopefully a long and happy life. Telling your reproductive story is a must for healing. Too often people are afraid to tell their story out of embarrassment, or fear of burdening others, or because others minimize or deny the physical and emotional pain caused by reproductive losses. This can lead to isolation, resentment, and depression. It is insufficient to say that loss is difficult, as each person and each couple experiences loss differently.
I actively elicit your reproductive story and provide hope for healing and transformation. With you (and your partner, whenever possible) we will explore:
- Gender issues
- Psychological make-up
- Childhood trauma
- Medical trauma history
- Family history and dynamics
- Belief systems
- Social environment
- Spiritual beliefs
- Resilience factors
I listen to my patients’ unique situations and partner with them in developing the most appropriate treatment plan. Many of my patients have found healing and new purpose. I collaborate actively with physicians, nurses, acupuncturists, and other health care professionals across the Twin Cities and around the country to ensure that healing is complete and that hope can spring anew for family building in the future. I am available for professional consultation, as well. Compassion and clinical know-how can ensure a variety of good outcomes including parenthood, better relationships, and self-compassion. Come see me when you are ready.
I found this excellent article on the Huffington Post Parents page called “What NOT To Say After Miscarriage or Child Loss.” (Posted 7/31/14). It is written by Erica Kain, a contributor to the Seleni Institute, a nonprofit mental health and wellness center for women and mothers in New York City. Erica Kain’s contact information is listed at the end of the article.
I’d love to have your comments on the article. If it is helpful to you, please share it with others. Thanks!
What NOT To Say After Miscarriage or Child Loss
Grieving after miscarriage, stillbirth, pregnancy loss
When someone you love loses a baby, you may feel helpless and uncertain about how to respond. And you might not get it right. If you’ve never experienced such a loss yourself, how can you know what your friend or family member needs at this terrible time? As someone who has miscarried four times, I humbly offer these simple guidelines that can be helpful when supporting someone who has experienced a miscarriage or lost a child to stillbirth or in infancy.
Four Things You Should NOT Do or Say
It can be very tempting to try to ease the parents’ pain or console them with comments such as, “Be grateful for the kids you do have,” or, in the case of miscarriage, “You can try again,” or, “At least you know you can get pregnant.” But this only dismisses their pain and hurts them more by adding doubt that their grief is real.
Don’t push them. People often mistakenly urge grieving parents to “get out there” or “move on,” even suggesting they try to get pregnant again. If they choose to move forward by trying to conceive, they probably will keep it to themselves for a while. But for many couples, that’s the last thing on their mind.
Keep theories to yourself. This is not the time (nor will there ever be a good time) to share your theories about the loss. The details are between the couple and their doctor, and hearing from others that “perhaps you exercised too much,” or “maybe it was too soon after your last pregnancy,” is extremely hurtful and guilt-inducing.
Let the parents bring religion into it. Almost everyone who has ever lost a pregnancy or a child hears the phrase “It’s part of God’s plan,” at some point. This may be a comforting statement if it’s in line with a couple’s religious beliefs, but you can’t assume that’s the case. Better to let them bring up any kind of spiritual comfort or philosophy.
8 Things You Can Do for Grieving Parents
Deliver meals. You can cook and deliver your own meals or arrange for delivery through a local service, such as San Francisco’s Home on the Range, or a national service likeMagic Kitchen, which offers special bereavement meals.
Suggest specific ways you can help. “When you say, ‘Let me know if there’s anything I can do,’ it puts too much of the burden on the bereaved parent to figure out how to manage that,” says Alison Eddy, 34, of Orinda, California, who lost her baby George at 10 1/2 months. Instead, she suggests saying something like, “‘I’m free on Wednesday afternoon. Can I come over and do your laundry, cut your lawn, or watch your kids?’”
Just show up. When Sue Harris, 57, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, experienced her second miscarriage, she was deeply moved by a close friend who came over unasked and cleaned all three of her bathrooms. “When she arrived,” says Harris, “she said, ‘I know where your bathrooms are’ and she went to work. It was a lovely, lovely thing.”
Include the father in your condolences. He’s often overlooked, even though he has suffered the loss too. Every person handles grief differently, but look for ways to talk and connect with the father about his experience.
Use the baby’s name if the baby was given one. Do this whenever you ask directly about the child. One common mistake people make is thinking that discussing a miscarriage or lost child will somehow remind parents of their loss. Trust me, that loss is very present all the time, and knowing that others remember your child can bring comfort. If the baby was stillborn or lost in infancy and you feel comfortable, ask to see pictures and talk with your friend or family member about the child.
Do good deeds. Many parents report that they appreciate when people give a donation in honor of their child. Noah’s Kindness Project is one example of an organization led by parents.
Commemorate anniversaries. It’s appropriate to send cards to recognize the day a child had originally been due or the anniversary of the miscarriage, stillbirth or death. Those are excellent times to check in with parents and invite them to talk if they want to. You can find these types of cards at the Etsy shop “A Loss Remembered.”
Share your story. Many parents report that when they are past the early shock of the loss, it can be comforting to hear others open up about how they survived a loss. The more we open ourselves up, as an entire community, to the reality of loss, the better chance we have of helping families who experience it.
A version of this article was originally published on the Seleni Institute website. Seleni is a nonprofit mental health and wellness center providing clinical services, research funding, and online information and support for women and mothers. You can follow Seleni on Twitter @selenidotorg.
I recently had the privilege of presenting at the Star Legacy Foundation’s Stillbirth Summit 2014, here in Minneapolis. I presented on using energy psychology, including EMDR and clinical hypnosis, to heal trauma after a stillbirth. Being part of the remarkable international faculty was amazing and humbling. I learned a great deal. Here are six crucial recommendations to prevent stillbirth in the future:
1) Elective Delivery Before 39 Weeks Can Prevent Stillbirth
In 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) strongly recommended against elective delivery prior to 39 weeks gestation, unless there is a valid medical reason or indication. Valid medical indications including preeclampsia/eclampsia, HELLP syndrome, fetal growth restriction, placental abruption, multiple fetuses, and poorly controlled diabetes. Having a large baby is no longer considered a reason to induce or deliver by cesarean before 39 weeks.
The “39 Week Rule” was instituted in response to the rise in C-sections and NICU admissions in the United States. These are incredibly important issues. However, the unintended consequence is a dramatic rise in the number of stillbirths. Multiple physicians and researchers from the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand agreed strongly that the rate of stillbirth can be reduced by inducing labor before 39 weeks of pregnancy. Many said that placentas have an ending point and “run out of gas” at the end of pregnancy.
2) Babies do not slow down at the end of pregnancy. Be aware of fetal movement, not just kicks
Every presenter talked about the crucial importance of being aware of fetal movement late in pregnancy. This means kicks and other movements. Women should use their intuition and call or go to their medical providers immediately if fetal movement is different than the baby’s normal pattern. All of the presenters dispelled the myth that babies slow down at the end of pregnancy. They do not.
3) End Membrane Stripping
There was an urgent recommendation AGAINST membrane stripping to induce labor. There was deep concern about how membrane stripping can introduce unnecessary, rapid infections that often result in stillbirth.
4) Sleep on the left side during pregnancy
Most presenters at Stillbirth Summit 2014 strongly urged pregnant women to sleep on their left side to prevent stillbirth. Back sleeping was strongly discouraged as it restricts blood flow. Sleeping on the right side has not been studied as much as the left but presenters acknowledged that it is fine to do.
5) Rule out or treat sleep apnea during pregnancy
Sleep disordered breathing (sleep apnea and chronic snoring) are implicated in pre-eclampsia, and a drop in fetal heart rate. A fascinating secondary question was brought up at the Summit: should all women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) be worked up for sleep apnea?
6) Babies that are smaller or larger for gestational age are at higher risk for stillbirth
Don’t assume that all is well if a baby is smaller or larger than expected. Researchers suggested that the size of the baby is giving data about the health of the placenta.