Mind & Body

Recovering From Miscarriage

Understanding miscarriage is an important step in moving through it
TIMEDecember 10, 2021

In recent times, miscarriage rates have significantly increased. Miscarriage is a spontaneous loss of a woman’s pregnancy within the first 20 weeks of gestation. Miscarriage is a significant loss for many couples.

While miscarriage is often something that people quietly suffer through, it’s a topic that should be discussed more openly because of how common it is. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage. If you have experienced a loss of pregnancy, you aren’t alone. We hope unpacking this topic will empower you and help you heal.

Types of Miscarriage

Blighted Ovum

A blighted ovum happens early in pregnancy when an embryo doesn’t develop and is reabsorbed, leaving an empty gestational sac. A blighted ovum is also called an anembryonic pregnancy. There is much speculation around what causes blighted ovum, but is likely a result of chromosomal abnormalities in the fertilized egg.

Women experiencing blighted ovum often get a positive pregnancy test and early pregnancy symptoms such as sore breasts and nausea. Once the embryo stops growing, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and progesterone levels start to fall and many of the pregnancy symptoms along with it. Women may experience spotting and these pregnancies always result in miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Missed Miscarriage

Missed miscarriage or silent miscarriage also happens in early pregnancy. In this case, women continue to experience pregnancy symptoms and feel pregnant-hence the name “missed miscarriage.” Oftentimes, this is only found during an ultrasound or because of vaginal bleeding.

Threatened Miscarriage

Threatened miscarriage manifests with vaginal bleeding, cramping, and perhaps low back pain. While this can be incredibly troublesome, not all women who experience these symptoms within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy end up miscarrying.

Inevitable Miscarriage

An inevitable miscarriage is when a woman is experiencing bleeding and cramping along with cervical dilation. Women sometimes go through all of the stages of labor in this circumstance but experience miscarriage.

Incomplete Miscarriage

An incomplete miscarriage is when the body doesn’t completely pass all of the tissue. Sometimes the use of specific herbs including black cohosh, blue cohosh, and angelica can help this process along. Some women may need a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove the contents of the uterus.

Complete Miscarriage

A complete miscarriage is when all of the contents of conception and tissue has passed from the womb. Bleeding may last several days after a complete miscarriage.

Molar Pregnancy

A molar pregnancy is also called a hydatidiform mole (HM), gestational tropoastic disease (GTD), or a mole. This happens as a result of genetic errors during fertilization and leads to a rapid growth of abnormal tissue in the uterus and no embryo. This occurs in 1 in 1000 pregnancies.

Ectopic Pregnancy

When the fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the main cavity of the uterus it’s called an ectopic pregnancy. This usually occurs in the fallopian tube and is therefore sometimes called a tubal pregnancy. Fertilized egg implanted in the fallopian tube will not allow the baby to develop and causes risk for the mother.

Symptoms of Miscarriage

  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding
  • Pain or cramping in the abdomen or lower back
  • Uterine contractions
  • Fluid or tissue passing from the vagina
  • Worsening or severe back pain
  • No longer experiencing pregnancy signs and symptoms

A Conventional Approach

Oftentimes, if the pregnancy is far enough along, conventional doctors will recommend a D & C, in which the cervix is dilated and an instrument is used to scrape the uterine lining. While this resolves the pregnancy loss relatively quickly, there is also risk involved with the procedure including perforated uterus, damage to the cervix, scar tissue, and infection.

A Holistic Approach

For women seeking a natural alternative, the body often will go through miscarriage on its own. While this can be a difficult experience, many women choose to go through this process within the comfort of their own home. Sometimes, especially in pregnancies that end later in the first trimester, women go through actual labor. It’s important to let your obstetrician or midwife know you are walking through this process so they can monitor you in case of emergency. If at any point during miscarriage you experience fever, chills, lower abdominal tenderness, or foul-smelling discharge it’s important to contact your health care provider immediately.

Herbs such as blue cohosh, black cohosh, cramp bark, and angelica are helpful in promoting the body‘s natural labor. Angelica is particularly helpful if the placenta doesn’t fully pass or profuse bleeding occurs. Additionally, clary sage essential oil is known to promote uterine contractions. Lavender and frankincense are often used to calm emotions and ease pain.

If you choose to miscarry naturally, it’s advised to contact your medical doctor or midwife in case guidance is needed. If you have any abnormal bleeding, cramping, or other strange symptoms, it’s imperative to reach out to your trusted healthcare provider.

Recovery

Whether you choose a D & C or miscarry naturally at home, the recovery process is very important to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Here are some considerations.

Nutrition

Whole food nutrition is vitally important to rebuild the body after a pregnancy loss. Consuming non-inflammatory foods such as organic fruits and vegetables, health-promoting fats, and quality grass-fed animal products will help to rebuild the body’s nutrient stores.

Women who walk through miscarriage often need to replenish iron, vitamin C, folate, and other B vitamins. Focus on cooked leafy greens, pasture-raised eggs, quality meats and liver, wild-caught seafood, and citrus. We recommend drinking nettle tea and red raspberry leaf tea after a pregnancy loss to tone the uterus and help it return its non-pregnant state.

Rest

Rest is critical when recovering from a pregnancy loss from a physical and emotional standpoint. Ensure you get at least eight hours of sleep each night to promote optimal restoration and repair. Give yourself space to grieve and process emotions before jumping back into your regular pace of life.

Exercise

Once physically recovered, many women find exercise helpful for boosting their mood and regulating hormones after a miscarriage. Connecting with your body through physical activity, rather than the sensations of loss, can be healing. Begin with walking, hiking, or another light activity.

Talk with Safe People

Whether it’s a loved one such as a spouse, family member, or friend, or a professional therapist, it’s healing to talk through your experience and grief. Miscarriage is very common, but sometimes it feels isolating and taboo to talk about. Likely the most helpful conversations will be with other women who have gone through miscarriage. Finding a trusted therapist can also be enormously helpful.

Functional and Integrative Medicine

Sometimes there are clear reasons why a miscarriage would occur. In other circumstances, the cause is unknown. It’s important to understand that miscarriage is never your fault. Getting evaluated by a functional or integrative doctor to assess hormone levels, thyroid function, nutrient status, blood sugar handling, underlying infections, or contributing genetic factors can be empowering in moving forward to future pregnancy.

Miscarriage is a significant loss for any couple. The loss of life—no matter how small—is very great! Be encouraged to know that 75 percent of women who experience miscarriage go on to have healthy pregnancies.

Ashley Turner
Dr. Ashley Turner is a traditionally trained naturopath and board-certified doctor of holistic health for Restorative Wellness Center. As an expert in functional medicine, Dr. Ashley is the author of the gut-healing guide “Restorative Kitchen” and “Restorative Traditions,” a cookbook comprised of non-inflammatory holiday recipes.