Surviving a miscarriage

Perinatal loss and infertility battles affect women and couples around the world, yet it remains a topic that is not talked about. Pregnancy loss, more commonly referred to as miscarriage, is a devastating event that can happen in approximately 25% of pregnancies. Moreover, recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL), which refers to two pregnancy losses prior to 20 weeks gestation, occurs in only one to three percent of couples trying to conceive.

At any gestational stage, the perinatal loss is a devastating experience and has been cited as a major source of stress for many women (and men) which can lead to individual psychological concerns such as intense grief, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sense of failure, and long-term feelings of guilt and shame. In addition, waiting to become parents can be a long, heart-breaking journey that is exacerbated by loss. These fertility challenges can also create a major strain on a relationship.

Firstly, it is important to understand that pregnancy loss affects a lot of couples worldwide and we grieve with you. However, it is also important to be reminded that no matter how you feel, the truth is that your loss is not your fault. Therefore, it is important to take time after a miscarriage to heal – not only physically but emotionally too. It is important to realise that pregnancy loss (no matter how far along) should be grieved as any other loss. Do what brings you comfort at this time- you might want to avoid social media for a time and prefer to grieve by yourself OR surrounded by loved ones. No matter the “how”, know that it is okay and that you do not need to explain your grieving process to anyone. 

Above the intense emotions, you might experience after a miscarriage, some women experience physical symptoms from their emotional distress.

These symptoms may include:

  • fatigue, trouble sleeping
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loss of appetite
  • frequent episodes of crying
  • broken or suffering relationships with family or friends
  • self-harm/suicidal attempts or actions
  • hormonal changes  

Thus, taking care of yourself physically and having the support to do so is important for healing to take place. More importantly, grieving a loss does not follow a timeline. It is not something we simply ‘get over’. It is a process and intense feelings can ebb and flow like waves. It is important to take it one day at a time.

Working through your grief will take time. Respect your needs and limitations as you begin to heal. As a counsellor and trying to conceive as an individual, my own recurrent miscarriages has prompted and encouraged me to delve into this unspoken reality that affects many families who suffer in silence. Talking about my own loss has helped immensely with my healing, and I feel passionate about offering a safe space to those who deal with this devastating event.

We recommend:

  • Reach out to those closest to you. Ask for understanding, comfort, and support. Also set boundaries.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time to grieve and the opportunity to remember. Make time to say goodbye (ritual) or celebrate/remember special dates. Some mothers get tattoos, keepsakes, plant a tree, and have a sacred space in their house to pay tribute to their baby(ies).
  • Talk about your baby with people you consider safe. If taking is too hard, keep a journal where you can write to your baby or envision who they are, what they look like and their personality traits.
  • Continue to communicate with your partner. Men grieve differently, but it does not negate the extent of their own loss. Talk to each other on how you can support one another during this time.
  • Join support groups on Facebook when you are ready. Note that these can be triggering. 
  • Read and educate yourself on pregnancy loss as much as you can- follow people who have gone through the process, learn from their advocacy and empower yourself through their stories and those of others.
  • Seek counselling from a professional to help both yourself and your partner. You don’t have to face this alone.


Lounette Els is a registered ASCHP Specialist wellness counsellor with a Masters in Social and Psychological Research (Wits) and has a special interest in sexual wellness. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Sexualities and Reproduction at Rhodes University. She further holds training from the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute (ISTI) and is a member of the Southern African Sexual Health Association (SASHA).

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