Things No One Tells You About Miscarriage

*If you’re squeamish or in denial about how women’s bodies actually work during pregnancy, miscarriage, etc. (spoiler…there’s blood and sex and stuff), you may want to skip this post.*

So I’m at that point in our miscarriage where the balance of good to bad days has shifted. I’ve spent just as many of my waking hours thinking about the mundane like how much it sucks to mow the lawn when it’s hot and humid and how the junk email keeps multiplying despite an ample number of clicks on “unsubscribe” as I have about our dead baby.  I’ve even, without ugly crying, clicked on the Craigslist “Baby and Kids” section once or twice, because thankfully at this point I’m thinking more about the possibility of getting pregnant again than about losing this pregnancy.

And I say “this pregnancy” because, well, it’s hard to tell when you can really say it’s over.  Which is just one of the (many?) things no one tells you about having a miscarriage.  As a woman, you’ve had plenty of conversations with other women about periods, sex, and pregnancy. You know, that one where your eyes kind of bug out as you find out about the disposable mesh underwear at the hospital, or what a 3rd degree tear really entails…But you never sit down with your girlfriends and talk about miscarriage.  You don’t sit down with your lattes and open a conversation by saying “Hey, you know what’s really weird/gross/surprising about a miscarriage?”  So instead you do what all modern day women do when they don’t know something…you google it.  And you end up reading message boards, which make you feel less alone, but also totally weirded out by all the talk of “baby dust” and “rainbow babies” (I am not kidding).

So, I’ve decided to make a list.  For women (and men, if they are interested in reading) who have had miscarriages, and those who haven’t.  Because I know for me it’s helped to talk about it, and part of being able to talk about it with people is demystifying what you’ve been through and what you’re thinking about. Of course every miscarriage is different, and some of these won’t apply to every woman (oh, and I’m super opinionated and am sharing from my own perspective only), but you, dear readers, are smart enough to figure that out.  So here goes:

  • A miscarriage and D&C are f****ing expensive.  Which I suppose is all healthcare really, but we were kind of shocked.  And on the day of the procedure, the one person who was supposed to help us figure that out, couldn’t really tell us what it would be.  Not even a guess.  She could tell us the doctor would charge around $900 for the D&C surgery, but that was all the info she had. It turns out the total cost, before insurance, for us was somewhere upwards of $8,000.  I am so grateful to have really good health insurance.
  • Even after the miscarriage (and a D&C) your body will still feel pregnant. It seems like a cruel twist of fate…you go through this whole process, lose your baby, and then still have to deal with the symptoms of being pregnant.  Because, even though your uterus has been scraped clean, you still have all these crazy hormones. You might still cry at weird times (compounded by the regular sad crying), your boobs still hurt, and I’ve heard for some people their milk even comes in (thankfully we were too early for that).  Which leads to the next thing I wasn’t prepared for and no one told me…
  • You’ll still get positive pregnancy tests.  Because you still have those hormones, specifically hCG, in your system. They are supposed to drop off after the miscarriage, but that can take weeks.  At 2 1/2 weeks post-D&C I’m still getting very faint positive tests, which is somewhat unnerving.  I worried for a while about possible false positives in the future, but my midwife assures me that if you start trying after your period comes back, there’s no need to worry.
  • Related to the previous bullet, like most post-partum women, you have no idea about when your period will actually return.  Well, you have a general 4-6 weeks, but then sometimes it’s 8 or 12 weeks. For an impatient woman who would really like to have a baby, that might as well be “we have no earthly idea.”  My midwife assures me that if it doesn’t happen toward the beginning of that window there are “things we can do,” but I still say waiting sucks.
  • I don’t know if this applies to all women depending on the hospital or provider, but for us, we had the option to have the tissue sent out for genetic testing.  I know that other women in my life who have miscarried were not given that option–they were told they only do testing after 2 or 3 miscarriages.  It’s certainly a personal choice, and carries some expense, but for me knowing the reason for our miscarriage (a chromosomal abnormality-trisomy 10) and the sex of the baby (it was a boy) gave me an incredible peace.  I knew without a doubt that there was nothing I could have done differently that would’ve changed the outcome.  It helped.
  • At some point, when you’re asking certain questions about what happens after, you wish someone would just say “We don’t really know, you’re just going to have to figure that out yourself.”  When you can start trying again comes to mind.  Thankfully my provider is super awesome and knows what she’s talking about and has basically said, start trying again whenever you want.  Which is what science actually says, which is good.  It’s easier to date a pregnancy (and avoid future heartache if the baby measures too small/etc.) after you’ve had your first period, but there seems to be no scientific reason to wait.  Despite that, so many sites/people/even health care providers are still telling people a certain number of cycles…which as far as I can tell is totally made up or just based on their opinions…one book I’ve been reading (Coming to Term by Jon Cohen) even suggests it’s to avoid “difficult patients” so soon after a miscarriage.  Too bad for my midwife, because I’ll be a difficult patient now no matter when we conceive (I believe I was probably difficult from the start).  Another question that illustrates this point was what we were told about when we could have sex after a D&C.  I don’t even remember who said what the day we had the surgery because there were so many people involved, but at the end of the day I know we had been told at least 3 different things including 1) after you stop bleeding 2) 2 weeks, and 3) an emphatic “Do not put anything in your vagina until you see your doctor again!”    which was definitely the most amusing answer.

I consider myself to be a fairly well-educated woman, and I was still a little shocked at how many things I didn’t know about miscarriage and what comes after.  For those of you who have been through it, or know women who have, what did I miss?  What surprised you?



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4 responses to “Things No One Tells You About Miscarriage

  1. Becky

    Great post. I was shocked and saddened to learn my miscarriage was not covered under my health insurance under pregnancy as it wasn’t considered an actual (viable was the term used) pregnancy. It felt like another blow to my already fragile pschy. So all my prenatal visits were rejected and came back as office visits.

  2. Elicia

    I will tell you, I think you’re right on about the “try again whenever you want”. Medicine likes us to fit neatly into boxes and ranges. But our bodies are so different, our health is different, our lifestyles are different. I can say, the better the diet, if it’s one full of healthy fats and proteins, and nutrients that support healing and cleansing of the uterus post-miscarriage, AS WELL as the diet of the man, to support healthy sperm development, the faster conception can happen, and the better genetic material that is passed in the egg and sperm, supporting a viable and successful pregnancy.

    Everyone seems to understand that it’s important to have a certain pregnancy diet, but often the conception part is left out. Healthcare providers, again, like to compartmentalism and say “this is the fertility diet”, but don’t factor in each woman’s individual challenges to figure out how to balance THEIR body. And frankly, they don’t learn how to do that.
    There is just this underlying assumption in much of modern medicine that “it doesn’t matter”, with regards to nutrition, as if a calorie is a calorie (it’s not), when we’re talking about basic raw materials needed to create life.
    And this (now that I know that) is one of the most empowering things, and I always tell clients hoping to someday have a baby, “think about it NOW. Start feeding yourself well now. Eliminate digestive problems now, balance your hormones now.”
    It will make everything much easier- easier to conceive, easier to heal when miscarrying, easier pregnancy (really! less nausea!), and easier recovery.
    It is amazing what paying attention to this often-overlooked factor can do, especially empowering women.

  3. Molly

    I didn’t know that, like you, my baby would just stop growing. I thought a miscarriage was spontaneous bleeding and immediate loss. I felt fine until they told me there was no heartbeat. Then I had to make a decision. You chose an immediate D&C, which seemed terrifying to me and I admire your courage for making the quick decision. I was told I could go home and “wait” and I ultimately took Cytotec, which was prescribed to me to induce miscarriage. It is an ulcer medicine that is normally taken orally, but not for this use. I never knew this medication existed. It took hours for the contractions to start after I took the meds. I sat in the bathtub as I watched my baby leave me as I writhed in pain, much how imagined labor and home birth would be. Though at the end there was no baby to hold. Just lots and lots of tissue that looked like a jellyfish. That is still what I think of when I see them.

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