Despite the fact that one third of first trimesters will end in miscarriage, it is a topic that stops us in our tracks. When dealing with grief after pregnancy loss, physically and emotionally, a woman and her partner need support and love through this difficult time. In Canada, we are blessed to have a number of services available to us to assist in coping, recovering and assessing our options. Griefworks says that “after the loss of a baby, there may be no satisfying answers. There may have been genetic, fetal, or external factors beyond anyone’s control – yours or your doctor’s. Most women can make lists of things they wish they had or had not done, but rarely is the death anyone’s fault. So it’s best not to try to fix blame. Evan an autopsy may offer no real answers. Just ask your doctor to explain as thoroughly as possible what happened and why. If the problem was genetic, seek genetic counselling before beginning another pregnancy.”
Griefworks outlines several different types of loss:
About one in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Most occur within the first 12 weeks. This loss may not receive much sympathy from others because there is usually no baby to see. But miscarriage may bring deep disappointment and a sense of failure. There may be envy – “Everyone has babies; why can’t I?” The mother’s depth of emotion may not be shared by her partner. He may seem more concerned about the mother’s physical well-being. “Will she be okay?”
Ectopic means ‘in the wrong place.’ Occasionally a fertilized egg does not implant correctly in the uterus and begins to develop elsewhere, typically in one of the Fallopian tubes. This causes pain and pressure, usually requiring immediate surgery. Because the loss is so early in the pregnancy and may be a medical emergency, little mention is made of the developing baby. But the loss is still very real and may be felt deeply.
A stillbirth occurs when a baby is born after 20 weeks gestation without a heartbeat and with no possibility of resuscitation. Sometimes an exam during pregnancy reveals that the baby has died. Other times the baby dies in labour. Either way, delivering a baby that is not alive is a tremendous shock. The emotional pain may seem much greater than the physical pain. It is desirable, with stillbirth, that parents see and hold the baby and take pictures.
There are many causes of infant death. The nightmare may begin with a premature birth and an uncertain outlook. Or there may be a birth defect, unexpected illness, or other complication. If your baby had obvious problems, friends and family may focus on the ‘blessing’ of death that keeps your child from a life of suffering. That may not comfort you right now. Sometimes death comes like a thief in the night – as with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The shock from a seemingly healthy baby dying suddenly may be long-lasting.
Griefworks BC exists through a partnership between Children’s & Women’s Health Centers of British Columbia and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
BC Toll free: 1-877-234-3322
BC Women’s Hospital is pleased to offer an outpatient Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic (or EPAC) within the Reproductive Medicine Program. The clinic is located at the Women’s Health Centre and is staffed by Nurse Clinicians, with consultation by an Obstetrician/Gynecologist as needed.
The clinic offers assessment of early pregnancy complications, diagnosis and management of early pregnancy loss, as well as supportive counseling and follow up care. It is our intention for all patients to be seen and treated within two to three business days.
Eligible: Patients falling within the Vancouver Coastal Health Region and
- Who are cramping or bleeding and have a positive pregnancy test.
- Who have a non-viable pregnancy confirmed by ultrasound at less than 12 weeks gestational age.
Excluded: Patients with heavy bleeding, severe abdominal pain, or suspected ectopic pregnancy. These patients should be referred to their local emergency department.
If you require further information, please call 604-875-2592.
The loss of a pregnancy can be a devastating event. Please contact either of the services above or your health practitioner for support and guidance. The choices you must make and the grief you may feel are immense and you should not have to feel alone during this difficult time.