Early pregnancy loss—sensitive care at a difficult time
Early pregnancy loss
Grieving for your baby
We are sorry that you have experienced the death of your baby in early pregnancy. You are likely to feel sad and you may need time to grieve. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Some women recover quickly, others take a long time. Some cope well at the time, but find a great sadness engulfs them later on. You may experience a range of feelings such as sadness, anger, bitterness or guilt. Perhaps you may worry that some activities such as exercise, housework, going to work, drinking, smoking or sexual intercourse caused the miscarriage. This is a normal reaction, but be reassured that it is extremely unlikely that anything you did caused your miscarriage. Women and their partners may blame themselves for a miscarriage, but it is very seldom anything they have done, or not done, that causes the loss.
The death of a baby can be traumatic at any stage of pregnancy. Your unique circumstances will have an influence on what this baby means for you. Often parents who have experienced an early pregnancy loss feel isolated and lonely particularly when many others around them are having babies. Any resentment that you may feel is very common among parents whose baby has died and these feelings are natural. It is important to acknowledge and accept your feelings and experience as a part of the grieving process as you come to terms with your loss.
Partners are likely to feel upset because of the distress you have gone through, as well as for the loss of the baby. You may be able to support each other very well, and may even feel that this experience has brought you closer together. However, grief can put a strain on even the closest relationships, especially over time. Just when you need each other most, it may be difficult to offer each other support. You and your partner may both be upset but in different ways or at different times. For example, one of you might want to talk, the other may want silence or simply find it hard to express feelings. One of you may want to try for another pregnancy as soon as possible, but the other may want to wait, perhaps for some months. Your partner may feel guilty because you are the one that had to go through the physical experience of miscarriage.
Sometimes partners feel powerless to help. Some concentrate on “being strong”. The downside is that they may end up feeling isolated, with no-one to talk to. They may also hide their feelings so well that they appear not to care. Some couples experience very different feelings about a miscarriage. If you are much more upset than your partner, then s/he may struggle to understand why life is not “back to normal” and why it is taking you a long time to come to terms with the loss. This can cause a lot of tension and arguments at what is already a difficult and distressing time. Sadly, it may be that your partner is unsympathetic to your loss, or that you don’t have a partner. This can leave you feeling very lonely and unsupported and it may be even more important to find support from someone else.
Children often notice when something is wrong, especially if a parent or someone close to them is upset. You may want to think about telling them what has happened, even very simply, especially if they knew you were pregnant. If you would like further information about children and grief, please contact Mater Mothers’ Bereavement Support Service on 07 3163 3467.
What happens to your baby now?
Performing tests and looking for a cause
Following an early pregnancy loss, we often suggest that a pathologist examine the placenta and baby. This information may have value in explaining the reason for this pregnancy loss and in decision making regarding future pregnancies. It is important to acknowledge, however, that frequently no explanation can be found.
If your loss occurs before 12 weeks there may only be a small amount to be seen or examined. It is not usually possible to identify a baby and most of the tissue is immature placenta.
After 12 weeks your baby may be more identifiable and usually the pathologist only examines the placenta. Rarely, however, the pathologist may suggest that we discuss with you the benefits of examining the baby more closely by performing an autopsy. During this procedure, the pathologist will choose very small samples for further testing. All babies and tissue will be treated with the reverence and dignity required by the philosophy and Mission of Mater, and the Sisters of Mercy.
Cremation and burial
Many parents want to know what happens to their baby's remains after a miscarriage. Mater arranges a collective cremation for all babies who died in early pregnancy unless otherwise notified by parents. Your babies' ashes are then placed in a specially reserved memorial garden located away from the hospital at New Haven Memorial Park, 21 Quinns Hill Road West, Stapylton. Please be aware that we cannot give you any indication of the timing for internment of ashes.
However, if you choose to have your own private ceremony or burial (this is not a legal requirement) please contact EPAU within 28 days of your miscarriage to arrange collection of your baby's remains.
Remembering your baby
Do not hesitate to ask the staff to see your baby, no matter how small they are. Many parents find this helpful in the months ahead. However, sometimes, there may be no baby to see. Giving your baby a name, even though you may not know what sex he or she was can also be helpful. When you go home from hospital you may find it difficult to grieve for your baby because you have no one to clearly remember. For this reason, you may like to create some memories of your baby such as planting a tree or a shrub, or creating your own personal memorial. This may take place some weeks or even longer after your pregnancy loss has occurred and is an opportunity to acknowledge the life of your baby and express your grief.
There is value in rituals when acknowledging the death of a baby. Rituals also recognise the loss of your hopes and dreams for a wanted pregnancy. Therefore, Mater Health Services offer services of remembrance twice a year. These services are open to women and their families who have experienced a pregnancy loss.
Service of remembrance
The service is held each year on the third Saturday in March at 2 pm at New Haven Memorial Park, 21 Quinns Road, Stapylton, Qld, 4207. For further information or to RSVP, please contact Mater's Pastoral Care team via email or phone 07 3163 6729.
Service of remembrance—International pregnancy loss day
This service is held each year on 15 October at 7 pm, in the Eire Room, Duncombe Building. For further information or to RSVP, please contact Patricia Wilson via email@example.com or phone 07 3163 3467.
On going support
Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU)
We are sorry for yoru loss and understand that this may be a difficult time for you. We would liek to phone you at home next week and ask you some questions about how you are coping.
It is likely that you will feel sad following your loss. For a small group of women, the sadness seems to grow deeper and deeper, and they are left with feelings that they find difficult to cope with and talk about. This is something which is more than grief and help is needed to get back on track. Please speak to your GP if you feel you may need counselling. You are entitled to Medicare funded counselling by a psychologist due to your miscarriage and your GP can arrange this for you.
The Pastoral Care Department at Mater is available to provide spiritual and emotional support. The pastoral care workers are professionals trained in the skills of supportive and person-centred listening. Privacy, confidentiality and the rights of individual choices without discrimination are honoured and respected. Pastoral Care can be contacted via the main switch on 07 3840 8111, or directly through the Pastoral Care Department on 07 3163 6729, from Monday to Friday between 7.30 am to 5 pm. They can also be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Experienced social workers can provide supportive counselling that may assist you in processing your feelings and emotions at this difficult time. Counselling can also provide the opportunity to discuss how the loss of your baby might affect you, your partner and your family both now and in the future. If needed, social workers can also refer you to community resources for further support. You can ask any of the staff who are caring for you to make a referral to a social worker or you can phone 07 3163 8031 from Monday to Friday between 8.30 am to 5 pm to make an appointment.
Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support Group (Qld) are a volunteer organisation that provides support for parents and families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. You may be asked to leave a telephone message, so please leave your name and number and they will return your call as soon as possible.
Phone: 07 3254 3422 or 1800 228 655 (outside the Brisbane metropolitan area)
Lifeline provides 24 hour access to crisis support services.
Phone: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue provides support for people suffering from depression and anxiety.
Phone: 1300 22 4636, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, Mater Health Services offer compassionate service to the sick and needy, promote a holistic approach to health care in response to changing community needs and foster high standards in health-related education and research. Following the example of Christ the healer, we commit ourselves to offering these services to all without discrimination.
Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit
Level 7, Mater Mothers’ Hospitals
South Brisbane Qld 4101
Telephone: 07 3163 5132
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: HOSP-011-00905
Last modified 03/11/2015.