Mothers’ worst nightmare

Miscarriage can be traumatizing to mom, family

By Barbara Pierce

miscarriageFew experiences are as isolating as losing a much-wanted pregnancy.

“When we choose to become parents, we take a big risk with our hearts. Never do we love so intensely — and this is scary, but so worth it.”

This is what Hilaria Baldwin — wife of Alex Baldwin — recently posted on social media (as quoted in USA Today).

“This time, when I opened my heart up to another baby, he or she didn’t stay very long. But I love this little soul deeply and wholly,” she continued. “I’m feeling fragile and I need support. I’m hoping, that by sharing this, I can raise awareness about this sensitive topic.”

A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook: “We’ve been trying to have a child and have had three miscarriages along the way.”

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience,” the Facebook chief said.

“Miscarriage is lonely and a great loss,” said Michelle Firlit, community health worker supervisor for The Neighborhood Center in Utica and its community health worker program, which works to improve birth outcomes among women with disparities.

Community health worker services include free home visits for women in their childbearing years, explained Firlit.

“We work with women before they have a baby, during pregnancy and after pregnancy. We help and support women and their families to get needed health care,” she said.

The Mohawk Valley Perinatal Network recently merged with The Neighborhood Center.

“We provide support to women who have had miscarriages,” Firlit said. “We listen to her feelings, help with further counseling, and help her feel positive about the future. We get her through it.”

According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. This high number is because most miscarriages happen in the first months of pregnancy, before a woman misses a period or knows she is pregnant.

About 15% to 25% of recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage.

Usually a miscarriage cannot be prevented and occurs because the pregnancy is not normal. Most miscarriages happen when the unborn baby has fatal genetic problems. Usually, these problems are unrelated to the mother.

Other causes of miscarriage include infection, medical conditions in the mother, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, hormone problems, immune system responses or uterine abnormalities.

“Being open just allowed me relief a little bit. Secrets are only scary when they’re secrets. Once you let the secret out, it’s not so scary anymore.”

A woman has a higher risk of miscarriage if she is over age 35, has certain diseases, or has had three or more miscarriages.

Having a miscarriage does not mean you have a fertility problem. The good news for couples that have experienced miscarriage is that a miscarriage does not lower the chances of successful pregnancy in the future. Even those with recurrent miscarriages are most likely going to have healthy children. After three miscarriages, Zuckerberg and his wife now have two healthy little girls.

Symptoms of a miscarriage include bleeding which progresses from light to heavy, severe cramps and stomach pain, fever, weakness, and back pain. If you experience these symptoms, contact your health care provider right away.

Discuss the timing of your next pregnancy with your health care provider. Some recommend waiting from one menstrual cycle to three months before trying to conceive again.

If you’ve had two miscarriages in a row, you should stop trying to conceive, use birth control, and ask for diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the miscarriages.

Taking time to heal both physically and emotionally after a miscarriage is important. Baldwin said she posted her pain on social media because she felt “fragile” and needed support.

“For me, it would be harder to do it silently,” she said. “Being open just allowed me relief a little bit. Secrets are only scary when they’re secrets. Once you let the secret out, it’s not so scary anymore.”

The overall response to her sharing was supportive. She also has gotten helpful knowledge from other women who have been through miscarriages.

“I got great advice,’’ she said. “This is something I’ve never gone through before. Women came on my Instagram or stopped on the street and gave me such wisdom.”

Women also don’t often live near their mothers, sisters, aunts and cousins. It’s likely that they haven’t been present and aware when these women lost pregnancies and don’t have the physical and emotional support for their losses that extended family would provide.

If you or someone you love suffers a miscarriage, find a way to get the support you need to cope with this difficult experience. You don’t have to feel devastated and alone when you experience such a loss.

Above all, don’t blame yourself for the miscarriage. Counseling is available to help you cope with your loss. Pregnancy loss support groups may also be a valuable resource to you and your partner.

Ask your health care provider for more information about fertility treatment and other resources.