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It is believed that 75% of pregnancies in India end in miscarriages. But most of them go unrecognised. At times, they take place so early that it seems like normal menstruation, though slightly delayed. Only about 15 to 20% miscarriages are clinically recognized.
Coping with a miscarriage can be very traumatic. Apart from the physical pain, the emotional impact takes its toll on a would-be mother and very often, the couple’s relationship as well. In the Indian context, it might be even more difficult because at times, the elder in-laws might abuse the woman, call her ‘names’ and shift the entire loss on her inability to be a mother. It further accelerates the pain, especially when no one else knows how much the woman herself is suffering, day in and day out.
26-year-old Sneha, after her first miscarriage was depressed for 2 years! Her relationship with her husband suffered. They had less intimate moments together. She feared getting pregnant again. She blamed herself for the loss of the unborn child. She confessed that she started being scared of being alone so much, that she would just put on the TV, so that some sound can be heard. Little things irritated her. She felt pangs of pain when she saw other mothers and felt infertile. In short, she felt she was no longer a woman, anymore. Her entire world had come crashing down.
So, there are various ways in which the woman’s body suffers and grieves after a miscarriage.
Firstly, miscarriages are painful for the body. It takes time for the body to heal. Along with mental trauma, women undergo phenomenal amount of physical pain which takes time to recede. It is very essential to be in touch with an experienced gynecologist who can prescribe the right pain relievers and other nutrients for the body, so that the body is able to heal, quickly.
Secondly, the woman starts feeling guilty and gets into clinical depression, in most of the cases. It is very difficult to even describe anyone how painful it is to lose an unborn child. There are so many hopes and expectations attached with every pregnancy and to experience its failure can be a harrowing experience. Example, in the case of Sneha, who herself hated reading books, had started buying child-care books and short stories for children when she was pregnant. After her miscarriage, it was very difficult for her to part with those little books which she had preserved for her baby. So, she disposed them. But it had been quite torturous for her soul.
Thirdly, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a supportive spouse. So, along with the grief, which is much internalized in the woman’s body and mind, she also starts facing the trauma of distance with her husband. If the husband is not very cooperative, there are episodes in which he would just ask her to ‘forget about it’ and start over, in a very insensitive way. He would not understand that she needs time and he might just be pushing for sex. God forbid, if that’s the case, the woman needs to be really strong, mentally to push him away and own the right over her body. She has the choice to try ‘getting pregnant’ again or not and she should never bow down to family pressures and patriarchal expectations if she is not ready for it.
So, how does one deal with it?
The first and foremost step is to know the facts. For example, two consecutive miscarriages are suffered by 5 per cent of the expecting mothers and three consecutive miscarriages are seen in one percent of the expecting mothers and repeated miscarriages is what we call recurrent miscarriage. Thus, women do not need to be scared of being pregnant again just because she suffered miscarriage the first time. Science and technology has progressed so much that abnormalities in pregnancy can be dealt in a much more nuanced manner today, than before.
Secondly, expecting mothers should stay away from Smoking, alcohol intake, drugs, which are also among major contributors to miscarriage.
Thirdly, expecting mothers must stop trying on their own and seek the help of a qualified reproductive endocrinologist or fertility specialist.
Fourthly, it has been so deeply ingrained in our minds that perfect pregnancies can occur only before the age of 30. But scientifically, that’s not the case. It is a fact, however, that eggs begin to deteriorate after age 35 regardless of the mother’s health and a higher rate of miscarriage and babies born with birth defects will occur. So, that’s the time when you should actually be cautious, not before it.
Fifthly, a woman should stop blaming herself for the miscarriage. In fact, the miscarriage can be due to her husband, also. A majority of miscarriages can be attributed to chromosomal defects. Considering that an exact number of male and female chromosomes come together to make up the foetus, any mismatch can lead to a foetal abnormality, sometimes leading to termination, usually in the first trimester.
Sixthly, expecting mothers should regularly test themselves. Endocrine disorders, undiagnosed thyroid disorder or uncontrolled type 2 diabetes may also be the cause of miscarriage. So, it is advisable to start taking medicines to control their impact.
Lastly and most importantly, if you’ve suffered a miscarriage it’s important to remember that you have the right to grieve as much — or as little — as you need to. Do this in any way that helps you to heal and eventually move on. Turn to your partner for support — remember that he’s mourning the loss of a baby, too, though he may show his grief in a different way. Sharing your feelings openly with each other, rather than trying to protect each other, can help you both heal.
Try to remind yourself that you can — and most likely will — become pregnant again and give birth to a healthy baby. For the vast majority of women, a miscarriage is a one-time event — and actually, an indication of future fertility.