Miscarriage, referring to the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy- is a deeply personal and emotionally challenging experience, affecting at least 15% of confirmed pregnancies. And when a pregnancy unexpectedly ends, we can be left with more questions than answers. moode sat down with Naturopath Vaughne Geary to create a detailed guide of practical tips and nurturing advice to support the grieving and healing process. Vaughne shares her wisdom with us, below.
As a Doula, I have come to understand and honour the truth that birth and death cannot exist without the other. For many on the beautiful and brutal journey of motherhood, there exists a commonly shared but under-acknowledged experience of miscarriage.
One in five pregnancies will end due to miscarriage during the first trimester - often leaving parents adrift and left to grapple with confusion and grief on a deeply physical and emotional level. Common feelings experienced following a miscarriage or termination for medical reasons (TFMR) may include sadness, anger, numbness, shame, guilt, jealousy and embarrassment amongst many others.
The fact of the matter is: miscarriage is still a birth, but it has a very different outcome.
Signs and symptoms of miscarriage:
Cramping and contractions can range from mild to severe over the course of several days and blood loss can be significant. Other symptoms may include headaches, nausea and a kaleidoscope of emotions; all of which can deplete your strength to go about your normal life.
It is important to monitor a miscarriage closely and although many are experienced at home with no complications, seeking professional medical advice is always recommended when experiencing symptoms such as severe blood loss, faintness, intense pain or fever.
Processing pregnancy loss:
Miscarriage can be a tumultuous process of grief, recovery and healing for many women and this should not be rushed or overlooked. Recovering on a physical and emotional level is unique to every individual and takes time, softness for yourself and your body, as well as the support of trusted friends, family and community.
There is no one right way to process a miscarriage, however there are some beautifully simple yet deeply nurturing tools to support your body and mind as you navigate your own journey.
Physical recovery after miscarriage:
Miscarriage is hard on your heart and your body. It’s important to create a comfortable environment around you that allows for you to sit and lay in bed or on the couch, as well as have uninterrupted sleep when you feel like it. Avoid strenuous activities around the house and high intensity exercise to allow your body to properly heal.
Asking for support from your partner, family and friends may feel uncomfortable, but it will create a loving nest around you and they often feel relieved and enthusiastic to provide comfort and practical support during a time that you need it the most.
Nutrition to support healing after miscarriage:
Nourishing your body with nutrient dense, quality whole foods is important when recovering from a miscarriage.
Foods to heal the body:
- Protein, to aid in tissue repair and healing
Eat a palm sized serve of protein with every meal or snack. Eggs, nut and seed butters, beans and legumes, organic cheese, lean meat and wild-caught fish are ideal, whilst organic liver (if you’re up to it) can be frozen and then grated into pasta sauces and casseroles to also boost your iron levels.
- Healthy fats, to support hormone regulation
These support your hormones and blood sugar levels as your body adjusts, whilst helping you absorb important nutrients for healing following a miscarriage. Choose avocado, ghee, fatty fish, chia, hemp and flaxseeds, nuts, olive and coconut oil.
- Fruits and vegetables, to ensure you’re consuming enough vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre.
The best colours include dark green, red, orange and purple which are antioxidant rich and help to reduce inflammation, whilst offering your body important vitamins and minerals to recover. Add berries to your smoothie and leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, spinach, silverbeet and rocket to your salad, soup or stir-fry.
- Whole grains for their nutrient density and comfort.
White bread, pasta and baked sweets are inflammatory and best avoided when your body is healing. More nourishing options include brown rice, quinoa, oats, freekah, barley and buckwheat.
- Bone broth to support physical repair and recovery.
Rich in collagen that will support muscle and tissue repair, this is incredibly healing, warming and full of vitamins and minerals. You can easily make this yourself at home or choose grass-fed and organic powder or liquid forms from a health food store.
- Healing herbs for increased support.
Herbal teas and tinctures offer gentle support for your nervous system and womb space following a miscarriage. Teas and infusions can be sipped throughout the day and are incredibly hydrating, warming and easily bought or made in the comfort of your home. They also provide quiet time to sit and rest using the subtle healing power of plants.
Dried herbs that are nutrient-rich, strengthen the uterus and support your nervous system include raspberry leaf, lemon balm, nettle, alfalfa, rose petals, motherwort and withania (ashwagandha).
Adding dried calendula, lavender, chamomile and rose flowers to an epsom salt bath is also a beautiful way to nurture yourself and give you space to rest in the weeks following a miscarriage.
(Working with a Naturopath or Herbalist will allow you to create a tincture to best support your individual needs)
Foods to avoid after pregnancy loss:
When your body experiences pain, it is best to avoid foods that increase inflammation and discomfort, such as:
- Refined sugar
- Processed carbs
Grief and emotional support:
Historically, our culture is quite blind to the enormity of miscarriage. It often takes a long time to recover from the experience, whilst leaving many women and their partners feeling emotionally fragile. You are not alone on this journey and you deserve to feel supported and loved. There are several ways to support your mental health and feelings in your heart following a miscarriage:
- Allow yourself and your partner time and space to move through the waves of emotions and process your loss. Being there for one another and sharing your feelings is important and validating, as is ensuring that you don’t avoid the reality of your loss by keeping yourself too busy to reflect and connect. You will and should never forget your miscarriage, so treat yourself with the respect you deeply deserve by honouring your experience.
- Sharing your experience and feelings beyond your four walls with someone you trust can be incredibly healing. Seek support from family, friends or health professionals who offer sound, safe and informed advice and perspective. This may include your midwife, doula, doctor, counsellor or psychologist and there are some incredible organisations who offer guidance and support for miscarriage and pregnancy loss:
Honouring the pregnancy through ceremony
Most importantly, you deserve to honour your pregnancy, your baby, your body and your birth. A beautiful way to do this is through a Closing of the Bones Ceremony facilitated by an experienced practitioner. Hold a loving ceremony to say goodbye to your baby, during which you may light candles, build a fire, read or burn a letter you have written, plant seeds or a tree in their honour or release flowers into the ocean.
Connecting with nature and allowing yourself to feel and release emotions can be deeply healing and allow you to connect with the cyclical nature of birth, death and Mother Earth.
Recovering from a miscarriage is a deeply personal and complex process that requires time, patience, and support.
For more conversations around miscarriage, see the following stories shared by powerful women in our moode community: