Supporting Patients Following a Miscarriage: Interview with Rena Stein, LMSW
Miscarriages affect many individuals as they attempt to build their families. Supporting patients following a miscarriage can help them process their emotions and work through the experience. RMA of New York spoke with Rena Stein, Licensed Masters Social Worker, about the coping strategies she recommends to patients after a miscarriage and what to keep in mind as they continue their reproductive journey.
1. What are some of the emotions patients work through when they experience a miscarriage?
Every patient is different and experiences different emotions at different times. Patients may work through a variety of emotions, including grief, confusion, and anger, but all of these feelings are a normal part of the reproductive process. Their emotions may depend not only on the experience itself, but also their prior reproductive history and life experiences.
2. How is a patient who has experienced a miscarriage treated?
Following a miscarriage, patients might consider first processing and validating their feelings by speaking with friends and family and even working with a trained mental health expert. In any given moment, it is up to the individual patient to determine how they can best be supported. In general, bringing emotions to the surface and sharing feelings with a trusted companion or therapist will be empowering and set patients on the path to success.
3. Of course there is no consistent way in which patients grieve and heal, , but is there a customary time frame patients wait prior to trying to conceive again?
Every patient approaches the next attempt at pregnancy differently, but as the medical components get resolved and emotional components start to ease, patients begin to resume normal lives- including trying to conceive again. Some patients want to start a new cycle or try to conceive right away because it helps them feel in control and proactive. Others want to take a break, slowly process their emotions, and give their body a rest. Besides personal reasons, there also might be medical issues to consider. If a patient is older, a physician might advise not prolonging the waiting period. As age increases, the quality and number of eggs decreases. Additionally, the physical act of carrying a pregnancy at an older age may cause stress on the body leading to an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, or gestational diabetes. In such a scenario, a physician may advise a patient to try to conceive again or undergo another natural cycle, IUI cycle, or even an IVF cycle sooner rather than later.
4. How can patients cope with loss on their own?
Finding others with a similar story is an incredibly powerful way to cope and find support following a miscarriage. Joining a miscarriage support group can offer the opportunity to form strong connections with individuals who have been through a similar situation. Talking through feelings with a therapist or writing them down in a journal can also be a cathartic exercise that often helps patients manage their emotions.
It is important for patients to communicate with their friends and family the way they want to address their miscarriage. Some want their loved ones to constantly check in, send words of support, or talk with them about the loss. Others choose not to talk about the miscarriage. Both are, of course, valid approaches, as long as patients know that support is around if they need it.
5. How should partners of those who have miscarried show support and find support for themselves following a miscarriage?
A partner of an individual who has gone through a miscarriage might consider asking for clarification on the type of support needed. Someone who has gone through a miscarriage might want to spend time together or may need time alone to process the event. Partners can ask how they can be supportive throughout the grieving process as feelings and needs may be dynamic. It is just as important that the partner who has not miscarried also receive support. While they did not experience the physical effects of a miscarriage, they still experienced a loss. They, too, might consider consulting support groups, journaling, or talking with someone about their feelings.
6. Celebrities have opened up about their own experiences with miscarriages. Have those public celebrity profiles helped patients feel more comfortable talking about miscarriage?
Celebrities who share their personal experience with miscarriage can help normalize the patient’s experience. Often, patients find it helpful to hear stories similar to their own that they can relate to. It can give hope knowing that a celebrity has undergone similar challenges when trying to conceive and overcame these challenges to ultimately conceive and have a child. Patients use these stories as words of encouragement and positive affirmation that they, too, can try to conceive again. Knowing that there is a solid support system in place can also make discussing the topic of miscarriage easier. The best thing patients can do for themselves in this situation is to seek support from loved ones, friends, specialists, and even a moderated positive online community.
7. What should patients to keep in mind as they come to terms with the miscarriage?
It is important for patients to remember that each pregnancy is different, and even though they may have suffered prior miscarriages, the next pregnancy will hopefully be a more successful one. Patients might consider focusing on the present moment to maintain a positive mental state about the current pregnancy. Working with a clinic that has a multi-disciplinary team of physicians and mental health experts provides patients the support they need both mentally and physically, and ultimately the strength they need to attempt another pregnancy.