Healing from Miscarriage
How to Utilize the Four Pillars in the First Two Weeks After Pregnancy Loss
Having a miscarriage is a deeply personal experience and one that looks different for each of us. Nearly 25% of pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, and yet, the topic remains somewhat taboo. As a result, many of us don’t really know what to expect or how we should begin healing from a miscarriage. As a women’s healthcare provider, and someone who has personally gone through a pregnancy loss, bringing conversations like these out of the shadows is incredibly important to me.
For some, the physical experience of pregnancy loss can feel similar to a heavy period, while others might endure contractions characteristic of active labor. This is influenced by the gestation at which the baby stops developing and/or whether any medical intervention is used to support the process.
Just as the physical sensations can differ greatly from person to person, it’s possible to encounter an array of diverse emotions, from sadness to guilt, and even relief. And while this type of loss can be devastating, not everyone feels grief. All of these emotions are valid, and it’s important that we both recognize and honor the uniqueness of each experience, since healing from miscarriage elicits a different response in each person.
I was totally caught off guard by my first-trimester miscarriage. It was my first pregnancy, and I was devastated. We estimated the baby stopped developing around 8 weeks, and I chose to “watch and wait” rather than utilize medical intervention to complete the process. This meant it took a little over two weeks for the process to begin. What started out as a little spotting slowly progressed to contractions that lasted nearly six hours. Two days later, I was back in the gym working out and coaching and back to my regular clinic schedule. Physically, I felt better than I had in weeks, and mentally, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was ready to put the whole experience behind me! However, within two weeks, I began to develop a host of symptoms from skin rashes to extreme exhaustion. In retrospect, I didn’t allow myself the time I needed to heal from the miscarriage and fully process my experience. As a result, my body forced me to slow down.
My miscarriage ended up being an incredible learning experience and taught me how to better support women through pregnancy loss. The reality is, the time after a miscarriage is a postpartum period, and within the BIRTHFIT community, we like to say “you are postpartum for at least as long as you were pregnant.” That is: we have to honor the fact that pregnancy occurred and the body needs time to recalibrate after such a significant physiological event.
One of the things I love so much about BIRTHFIT is our holistic approach, which can be summed up by our four pillars: fitness, nutrition, mindset, and connection. The following are my recommendations for incorporating each pillar into a plan for healing after a miscarriage, particularly in the first two weeks:
BIRTHFIT’s founder, Lindsey Mathews, often reminds us to “move with the body you have today.” In those first couple of weeks after a miscarriage, you may still be bleeding, and you are likely feeling the effects of significant hormonal shifts, so it is important to tune into your energy levels and move in a way that does not further deplete you. Movement can be incredibly healing and can help dispel physical and emotional stress, but it can also create more stress within the body.
Some important things to consider:
- Are you currently bleeding? If so, high-intensity training may not serve you.
- How are you sleeping? If you aren’t getting adequate rest, too much activity can be counterproductive.
- What is your energy level like? If you feel particularly exhausted, consider activities like yoga, walking, or mobility work.
If you are accustomed to pushing through discomfort, now may be an opportunity to allow yourself more flexibility when it comes to your training. You may even consider making training according to your menstrual cycle a regular practice. If you’re curious about what that might look like, check out our Training Cycle program here.
Just as it’s important to be self-aware when it comes to movement, listening to your body when it comes to nourishment is an act of self-care and a powerful tool to promote healing from a miscarriage. You might notice that you crave certain foods either because they provide emotional comfort, or because your body is trying to replenish key nutrients. Focusing on whole, nutrient-rich foods will help you recover, but there is nothing wrong with indulging in your craving for a donut.
Key foods for healing:
- Iron-rich foods: organs meats, oysters, leafy greens, legumes
- Warming foods: bone broth, soups and stews, Teamotions Teas
- Quality protein: pastured poultry and eggs, grass-fed beef, fermented dairy (as tolerated)
- Healthy fats: nuts and seeds, fatty fish, olives, ghee
It is also a great idea to continue (or start) taking a prenatal vitamin, especially if you are planning to TTC again soon. While the goal should be getting as many nutrients as you can from whole foods, a prenatal vitamin can help ensure adequate stores of the key micronutrients needed to support a developing baby.
For me, mindset work has been perhaps the most important focus of my transition into motherhood. In fact, it was my experience with a miscarriage that prompted me to create a regular mindfulness practice as I prepared for my next pregnancy. It allowed me to stay present, rather than allow anxiety about what might happen in the future to consume me.
A key principle of mindfulness practice is allowing yourself to experience whatever feelings are present for you in any given moment, without judgment. One of the most effective ways I’ve found to do this is through journaling; simply grab a pen and a journal and write freely. This practice will allow you to both uncover, and then process whatever thoughts are coming up.
Tuning into your mindset and processing your emotions is also important so that you can determine whether you might need the support of a trained mental healthcare provider. It’s not uncommon to experience mood changes after a miscarriage; however, those that persist beyond two weeks may need additional support.
When we think of connection we typically think of our relationship with others and our community, but first and foremost, it’s essential that we prioritize our connection with ourselves. This is especially important following a pregnancy loss because it’s not uncommon to feel a sense of guilt or shame. In fact, many people report feeling “betrayed” by their body. This is the time when establishing a connection to your heart and womb space can be incredibly healing.
Ways to do this:
- Self-massage — The simple act of touching your belly and womb space can support both physical and emotional connection to your body.
- Maya abdominal massage or Mercier Therapy — These are therapies offered by trained professionals and are very effective in supporting healing after pregnancy loss.
- Vaginal steaming — Although research regarding this practice is limited, it has been a part of many cultures since time immemorial, and it is a beautiful way to honor your body.
- Breathwork — Connecting to your breath is a simple, yet effective way to tune into and be present with your body.
When you feel ready, consider sharing your experience with others, as this can also be profoundly healing. I’ve noticed that each and every time I share my story, a little more healing happens. Additionally, by sharing your experience you, too, are helping to dispel the taboo of this topic. It’s through our stories that we build a connection with others.
If you take anything from this article, I hope it’s a deeper understanding of the importance of allowing the body to heal after a miscarriage. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, it’s important that we feel empowered to care for ourselves through experiences like this. If you have experienced a miscarriage and would like more support, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Brittany Anderson, WHNP-BC@britteanderson
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