The emotional pain after the loss of pregnancy

Loss of pregnancy, despite its common occurrence, is still often taboo. How does a sudden pregnancy loss affect a woman's mental health, her relationship with her partner, and the perception of her femininity? How does emotional pain manifest in different women after such a traumatic experience?


Estimated studies indicate a risk of miscarriage in 10-25% of documented pregnancies. Almost half of the fertilised cells are removed from the body without the woman knowing she is pregnant. At the same time, about one in six pregnancies confirmed by a pregnancy test or by a doctor are miscarried in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (first trimester), and one in 50 during pregnancy within the next nine weeks.

The statistics are inexorable - many women trying to conceive will experience a pregnancy loss during their lifetime. Despite its common occurrence, pregnancy loss is a challenging and painful experience for most families. Depending on individual experiences, each woman may react differently to such an event.

After losing their pregnancy, some women will prefer to remain silent and "work through" the process with themselves. Others will strongly need to talk about it - both with their relatives and people who have lived in a similar situation. Research shows that it is also crucial whether it happens for the first time or again. If a woman loses her chance to become a mother again, her thoughts circulate more intensively around the event's causes.

Most women feel a strong sense of loss, not only about how they imagine their baby but about themselves as a mother-to-be. If the pregnancy was unplanned, and the woman's reaction to the news of being a mother was not full of excitement, additional thoughts about "causing" a miscarriage occur. A woman may wonder if her attitude towards pregnancy was different; the child would be born. She points to her negative thinking as the reason for losing her pregnancy.

Sense of loss

Losing a pregnancy causes a different sense of loss than saying goodbye to someone you know. A woman's mourning comes from the idea of ​​who her child might have been and what kind of woman and mother she would have become had it not happened. This is often difficult for people who have never experienced such a situation to understand.

The physical effects of a miscarriage - especially discomfort and bleeding - can increase feelings of sadness and anxiety. If your pregnancy is at an advanced stage, you may also experience physical activities such as starting lactation, which can be a challenging experience for a woman.

There are three key stages that most often occur when experiencing pregnancy loss. The first is a shock that can create a sense of dissociation. Emotional dissociation is the disconnection of feelings, thoughts, and body reactions. A woman who receives information about the loss of pregnancy, despite being rational for her, a woman who receives information about the loss of pregnancy, needs time for her emotions to "catch up" with her thoughts.

The second stage can co-occur with the shock and last for a short time (up to several days) in disbelief and shock. When a patient receives such complex information, she may try to deny it, deny it ("It cannot be true", "It certainly did not happen to me"). The medical staff should treat this natural stage with gentleness and empathy. It takes a woman time for this information to reach her on a rational as well as an emotional level.

A woman who becomes pregnant experiences an emotional revolution, no matter what her economic, social and relational situation is. Whether the pregnancy was planned or not, she begins to see the world differently. Often full of excitement, she is eager to share the good news with many people. However, when there is a period of sadness and mourning after the loss of a pregnancy, after the joy beforehand, there is also shame. The shame of a woman believing that she has not fulfilled her role as a mother.

When looking for the fault within herself, a woman thinks she is not a worthy woman. This feeling increases when the second or subsequent pregnancy is lost and when there are no children. If a woman already has offspring, the sense of shame of being an unfulfilled woman in the role of mother is less. However, in such a situation, there is an additional difficulty: informing the children about the loss. It is possible that the child has already been preparing for the role of an older sibling, and the information about the loss of this opportunity can be an intensely emotional experience for both the child and the parents.

An essential element of support for women after the loss of pregnancy is the empathetic and understanding approach of medical staff, conveying the message about the event. A woman deprived of the fundamental right of access to complete information about her condition is more likely to experience emotional stress. 

How a woman feels about the loss should never be undermined or belittled. If she cannot undergo a process that facilitates her coming to terms with the event, it may leave a mark on her future births and motherhood and, above all, on her mental state.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, EH16
Written by Anna Bajus, HCPC Reg. MA, MBPsS
Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, EH16

Anna Bajus, clinical and counselling psychologist based in Edinburgh, HCPC and BPS registered.

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