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Taking care of your mental health after a miscarriage or stillbirth

July 24, 2023
Hannah Brookfield

Just to let you know, this is a sensitive topic and some of the information discussed may be upsetting.


Going through a miscarriage or stillbirth can be an extremely difficult time for both partners, so taking care of your mental health is especially important. Everyone reacts differently to loss; you may feel a rollercoaster of emotions, you may feel numb or it may vary from day today, hour to hour - there’s no right or wrong. The most important thing is that you’re kind to yourself as you come to terms with what’s happened.


Your emotions after baby loss

Some people feel the emotional impact of a miscarriage or stillbirth right away, while others find that it takes a while to catch up with them. Whatever the situation, you’re bound to have a mixture of feelings, such as disappointment, sadness, guilt, anxiety, failure and jealousy to name a few. Here are some gentle reminders to help you navigate this:


You are entitled to grieve

People who have suffered baby loss might wonder whether they’re entitled to grieve their loss. Grief after a miscarriage or stillbirth is as valid as it is at any other time. Often, parents have already pictured their baby’s future and their future as parents and they need to mourn the loss of these hopes and plans. To find out more about how to cope with grief, read this.


You are not a failure

When someone goes through baby loss, they may feel as though they’ve failed and let other people down. Carrying this guilt around with you can weigh heavily on your mental health. It’s important to remember that the reasons for most losses are out of your control.


Guilt is a natural part of the grieving process. It’s helpful to acknowledge how you’re feeling and give yourself permission to feel this way as you process what’s happened. We’ve written an article about self-compassion here.


Feeling jealous doesn’t make you a bad person

It may be difficult to feel happy for other pregnant people or people who have just given birth, especially to begin with. You may feel bad for feeling this way, but it’s normal to feel jealous when you’re faced with a physical reminder of what you’ve lost. If you need to avoid certain people while your emotions are still raw, that’s okay.


You are not alone

Grieving the loss of a pregnancy can be an isolating experience. If your loss happened early on, you may not have told anyone that you were expecting, so your friends, family and colleagues aren’t aware of what you’re going through. It can help to open up to someone you’re close with, or if you don’t have this option, there are services that can support you, such as Tommy’s.


Can baby loss cause mental health issues?

Following baby loss, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions, and overtime you may notice that symptoms start to settle. But what should you do if you’re not feeling better, or if you find things worsening?


There’s research to say that people who have experienced baby loss may go on to develop mental health problems as a result. A recent study shows that one in three women have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) one month after a miscarriage, while one in four have moderate or severe anxiety. Another says that nearly 20% of women who have a miscarriage experience symptoms of depression. People who have gone through a stillbirth are also more likely to suffer with depression, anxiety and PTSD.


If you’ve gone through baby loss, whether it was recently or some time ago, it’s a good idea to get to know the symptoms of the mental health disorders we’ve mentioned. It’s always best to treat a mental health issue early on, but there’s help available no matter how long you’ve been suffering. Here are some of the most common symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD:


Symptoms of anxiety

  • Physical symptoms, like shallow breathing, a racing heart, sweating, muscle tension and feeling sick or dizzy
  • Feeling like you can’t stop worrying, or that bad things will happen if you stop worrying
  • Feeling tense, nervous or unable to relax
  • Having a sense of looming danger, panic or doom
  • Avoiding everyday situations that trigger anxiety
  • Being unable to enjoy leisure time, such as time off work, holidays or hanging out with friends


Find out more about anxiety and the symptoms here.


Symptoms of depression

  • Physical symptoms like fatigue, trouble sleeping, tiredness and lack of energy, low sex drive, digestive problems, aches and pains
  • Having a sense of looming danger, panic or doom
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt – fixating on past failures or self-blaming
  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Being unable to enjoy leisure time, such as time off work, holidays, hanging out with friends, hobbies or sex
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters


Find out more about depression and the symptoms here.


Symptoms of PTSD

  • Physical symptoms like nausea, trembling, pain, sweating, hyperarousal, feeling physically numb or detached from your body
  • Shame or guilt
  • Reliving aspects of the traumatic event via recurrent, unwanted flashbacks
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about what happened
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event


Find out more about PTSD and the symptoms here.


Treatment for mental health issues

If you think you’re experiencing heightened anxiety or low mood as a result of a miscarriage, stillbirth, or for any other reason, make an appointment with your GP to talk about your symptoms. They will be able to let you know which treatment options are available, which may include talking therapy. Remember, partners are affected by baby loss too and there’s help available no matter which parent you are.


At ieso, you can refer yourself for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is a type of talking therapy used to treat a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and PTSD. CBT encourages you to challenge negative thought patterns and behaviours, while teaching you coping strategies to help you manage your mental health. Our service is online and free for many NHS patients. Register on our website to find out if you’re eligible.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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