While most people agree that women should be given sufficient time to recuperate after a pregnancy and birth, not many give a thought to women who lose their babies mid-way through pregnancy.
WE’RE all familiar with the term “confinement leave”, the rest period of two or three months a new mother takes after having a baby. Many fathers today even go on paternity leave, which can be an accumulation of their annual leave or even unpaid leave, to help their partners during the first few weeks of their baby’s arrival. While most people agree that women should be given sufficient time to recuperate after a pregnancy and birth, not many give a thought to women who lose their babies mid-way through pregnancy.
Miscarriages usually occur before the 20th week of pregnancy, but can sometimes happen later in the pregnancy. It is more common among women who are older, or have conditions such as an infection, exposure to radiation, diabetes, thyroid problems, hormonal imbalance, chromosomal problems and unhealthy lifestyle (smoking, alcohol drinking, poor diet). In the olden days, a woman who had a miscarriage would have to go through an extended confinement, staying indoors and resting for double the amount of time a woman with a normal pregnancy and birth would.
In this day and age, this is totally unheard of. Most of the time, women who suffer a miscarriage will just take a few days of medical leave, and jump back to work the week after. Very few women are aware that their bodies have undergone a traumatic experience similar to pregnancy and birth (even if the miscarriage happens very early in the pregnancy). The effects of neglecting the body after a miscarriage will only be felt many years after, sometimes decades down the road. This includes the emotional and physical aspects of healing, both essential for healthy living.
It may be hard to explain to your boss that you need to take confinement leave when you lose a baby, but there are still ways to care for yourself after a miscarriage. Here is what you need to know about a miscarriage:
What is happening to my body?
You will continue bleeding or spotting for one or two weeks after. It is important to avoid infection; hence, avoid swimming, bathtubs (take showers instead), tampons (use sanitary napkins) or douches. Your breasts may feel engorged or leak small amounts of milk, similar to lactating women after childbirth. Your abdomen may be painful or crampy during the first few days after your miscarriage. After the bleeding stops, your normal menses will return within three to six weeks.
Can I get pregnant again after a miscarriage?
Most women do get pregnant again after a miscarriage, unless they are of advanced age (above 40 years old), have an unhealthy lifestyle, or other medical conditions that make conception a problem.
When can sexual intercourse begin?
Sexual intercourse can begin when you feel comfortable and have stopped bleeding. This can range from a month to a few months, and even longer for some women.
How soon can I try for another baby?
There are no hard and fast rules, and the general recommendation is to wait until you are physically and emotionally ready. This means no more miscarriage symptoms and you have accepted the loss of your pregnancy well.
How long should I grieve?
It differs from one woman to another, depending on the circumstances of the conception and miscarriage. Women who badly wanted a baby will take a longer time to get over their miscarriage, whereas others will be able to bounce back to normal faster. In many cases, women who have miscarried attempt to suppress their emotions by taking their miscarriage lightly. Only in their later years do they begin to feel the guilt and wonder what they could have done to prevent the miscarriage.
It is important to know that everyone grieves differently, so don’t compare your situation with others. Also remember that your partner may be grieving the loss, although most men do not articulate their feelings. Help yourself heal, first by forgiving yourself or your partner, and giving yourself closure. Some women conduct small rituals, such as planting a tree or a garden, or naming a pet after their deceased child. Other ways to heal include talking it over with your close friends, writing it down or taking part in community activities.
When should I see a doctor for advice?
Go to a doctor for advice if you start having fever, heavy bleeding, or thick and smelly vaginal discharge. These could indicate that there is some foetal tissue left behind in your uterus that has not been properly cleared, or that you have an infection.
How can I ensure my next pregnancy is healthy?
Start prepping your body before you get pregnant. See your obstetrician and gynaecologist for advice based on your age, lifestyle, family history and medical background. Lose weight if you are overweight or obese, begin a course of folic acid, and avoid smoking, alcohol and caffeine.
Manage stress levels, as it could cause hormonal imbalance and affect your chances of conception.
THE STAR MALAYSIA, November 15, 2014
By DR NOR ASHIKIN MOKHTAR