A pregnancy loss—no matter how early—can be devastating and almost always results in intense feelings of grief and sadness. No one grieves the same way, and the intensity and severity of grief will always be greater in the initial stages of a pregnancy loss or miscarriage. As you move on, you will never forget the trauma and tragedy of the loss, but you will be better able to start living your usual life again. We spoke to Dr. Bev Young, psychiatrist and BRIA co-founder for more insight about when to seek additional and outside mental health help following a pregnancy loss.
How to know if you should seek out mental health help following a miscarriage or pregnancy loss
There will be some who find the healing and recovery process to be extra debilitating. If you are still having some anxiety or depressive symptoms a few months after a pregnancy loss, and you are unsure if these symptoms are pathological in nature—so severe that you should be getting help— here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I still able to have some moments of pleasure?
- Am I feeling constant guilt and self-blame?
- Am I avoiding work or social situations for fear that people will ask me about the loss?
- Am I having trouble sleeping because I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind starts racing and I can’t shut it off?
- Am I having difficulty with memory and concentration, or trouble with everyday errands or tasks?
- Do I have constant anxiety buzzing in the background so that it’s difficult to truly enjoy anything?
- Am I having episodes of shaking, chest pressure, trouble breathing, and feeling like I’m going crazy?
- Am I feeling sad, lonely, irritable, and depressed most of the day?
- Are these negative feelings familiar to me and remind me of my past episodes of depression or anxiety?
- Am I having issues with self-care and usual daily activities?
- Do I have any thoughts of running away or escaping?
- Do I have any thoughts of not wanting to live?*
If you have any concerns about your mental health, please see your primary care provider—there are many treatment options, including many types of therapies and medication, if necessary.
*If you are having any thoughts of self-harm, please go to the nearest ER, call 911 or call the Canadian Suicide Hotline at 1-833-456-4566 or the 998 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline in the United States. Help is available.
Resources to help you recover following a miscarriage
- Through Not Around: Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss by Allison McDonald Ace, Ariel Ng Bourbonnais, Caroline Starr: A collection of personal stories about what it's like to go through the emotional and physical facets of infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss. This book offers reassurance to those in the midst of their own struggles, letting them know that they are not alone and that it is possible to find acceptance and strength on the other side of grief. The way forward is by going through the grief, not around it.
- Our Heartbreaking Choices by Christie Brooks: Forty-six personal stories about abortions sought out due to a poor prenatal diagnosis or serious maternal health complications. There is very little societal support for parents who make this hard decision, which leaves most parents to deal with their sadness and grief alone.
- Miscarriage: What Every Woman Needs To Know by Professor Lesley Regan: This book gives up-to-date information on the many causes of miscarriage and the latest treatments available. It covers the chances of a successful pregnancy, how to prepare for and cope with the next pregnancy, infertility, and gives answers to the most commonly asked questions on the subject of miscarriage.
- It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Cultural that Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine: Offers a profound new approach to both the experience of grief and the way we try to help others who have endured tragedy. Debunks the culturally prescribed goal of returning to a normal, “happy” life, replacing it with a far healthier middle path, one that invites us to build a life alongside grief rather than seeking to overcome it.
Counselling, Psychiatric Services and Group Support
- BRIA: Mental Health Support for all reproductive life stages including trying to conceive, perinatal loss, termination, and pregnancy after a loss. Services offered: individual and couples therapy, psychiatric assessments, allied health support, and more- all virtually accessible across Ontario (will be available in other provinces soon).
- Josiah and Co.: Grief support and infant and pregnancy loss doula services for both individual and community grief support.
- PAIL Network: Support groups and resources.
- Pregnancy + Infant Loss Support Centre: Comprehensive and inclusive grief support including a pregnancy loss hotline with individual and group support available.
- Resolve, The National Infertility Association: Virtual support groups and resources to connect with professionals and individuals to talk about reproductive health and loss.