I am writing this to provide a support blueprint for physical and holistic recovery after a miscarriage.
There is very little nurturing support offered to women when they give birth to a live baby, and in particular, almost no bodywork support. When you lose a baby, the idea of this kind of support is almost non existent. This is one of the reasons I wrote my book, Why Postnatal Recovery Matters. In the book I also wrote chapter that covers postpartum after baby loss.
When you have a miscarriage, especially when your baby dies before you have reached 24 weeks pregnancy, there is usually very little offered to support your physical and emotional wellbeing. Because losing a pregnancy before a baby is considered viable, once the medical aspect of the loss has happened, once the baby has left your uterus, no further support is usually offered. The taboo around the first trimester of pregnancy doesn’t help.
It can leave you with emotions and feelings that have nowhere to do, both physically and emotionally. Furthermore, there is no guide or support given to help you recover from a more holistic point of view. The leaflets given in the hospital usually only cover the physical aspects such as cramps and bleeding, but not much else beyond that.
I have had 4 miscarriages and I wish I had known back then about the importance of nurturing myself back then. Yes I was given a week off work, and I went to miscarriage association meetings which I found very helpful, but I now know that there is much more that could have been done so soothe my heart and body.
I want to offer a simple guide about how to look after yourself when you have a miscarriage.
First of all, if you experience a loss, regardless of what stage of your pregnancy you are at, you will be postpartum. You will probably need to grieve, and you deserve the same support as a mother who has given birth to a live baby. In fact you will probably need it more.
If you lost your baby earlier in pregnancy you might feel that your loss isn’t valid. But you cannot measure grief by what it looks like on paper. Your grief can be as real as if your baby died when you just found out you were pregnant, or if your baby died when he was several months old.
There are some wonderful charities like the miscarriage association that offer very helpful emotional support. I have listed organisations at the end of this post that can provide support. Here I want to focus on some of the things you can do to support yourself, and your body, as you recover.
Postpartum recovery boils down to 4 simple areas: Social/community support, rest, food and bodywork. The tricky aspect is that it is likely that you will have no time to plan. I hope you can still use some of the suggestions made here.
- Friends, family, neighbours
- Hired help such as doulas, who can not only take care of things in your house but also provide much needed validation of your emotions
- Online support (social media groups, WhatsApp groups…)
- Gifts. If people ask what they can do to help, you could ask them to purchase you some of the things you need from the list below. You can make a list to suggest what you’d like: food delivery, doula or massage vouchers etc
- Take time off work/ask for compassionate leave (this is only if doing this would help, some people find it easier to keep working)
- Help with household (chores, cooking, cleaning, other children etc.)
- Make a list of potential helpers for the above.
- Take naps/ slow down
- Relaxation: techniques and apps
- Who can make/deliver you some food/organise a meal train
- Deliveries (supermarkets, takeaway meals, frozen, fresh, meal boxes)
- Foods that are warm, comforting, and which contains warming ingredients, ie typical postpartum foods, such as this Chinese postpartum soup.
- Nutritious snacks and drinks.
- Postnatal massages
- Closing the Bones ceremony
- Womb massage therapists
- Specialist manual therapists (osteopaths, chiropractors, and pelvis health physiotherapists)
- Wrapping your hips/abdomen
- Keeping warm
I want to expand on the bodywork aspect as I know it’s the most neglected one of the 4 categories. We literally offer zero bodywork after the birth of a live baby, and it doesn’t even enter most people’s consciousness to offer this after a miscarriage or stillbirth.
I have been giving a postpartum massage ritual called closing the bones to new mothers, both post live birth and post loss for 10 years, I know how important and healing this ritual can be. I have lost count of the times women have told me “I thought I was just getting a massage” after receiving a closing the bones ceremony post loss. I have given this ritual to my own mother on the anniversary of the stillbirth of my little brother, over 40 years after birth, and it was very very significant and healing for us both.
Symbolic rituals and objects can be powerful too. I had a Jizo doll, inspired by a Japanese deity for pregnancy loss, made to represent and honour the loss of my babies. Some people make miscarriage jewellery.
Loss involves shock, and I was reminded of this recently, when I gave the ritual to a friend who had been in a car crash. She wasn’t physically hurt but she was in shock. After the ritual she was visibly calmer, softer, and more together, and she said so herself.
After a miscarriage, and any pregnancy loss, your body will be in need of healing and nurture. Giving your body this space will also help you process the grief. It will give you a space to honour your emotions, and give your body a change to regulate to a place of relaxation and safety.
I wrote this blog post about how closing the bones can help with baby loss, and here are a couple of stories that poignantly express how meaningful it can be.
” I came along to the Closing the Bones Training about a year after my baby had died. Towards the end of the ceremony, as I was being rocked deep shudders started going through my body and as the rebozo was pulled tight around my pelvis I felt a huge emotion that even now I am not sure what to call it. It felt as though the protective bubble I had formed around myself moved away and with that my baby – as if I was releasing him. Sobs racked my body all the grief, the anger, the exhaustion all the disbelief of what had happened came pouring out. I hadn’t realised how much I was holding on to. I felt the women form a circle around me and felt what it was like to have a safe space held for me, allowing me to just be there in my wild tumult of emotion. I heard someone singing the most beautiful song and someone stroking my hair, hands touching me sending love and support“. Rosie
“Having the closing the bones massage helped me to accept my baby’s loss and start to move forward and also forgive my body and let go of all the negative feelings.” Claire
Bodywork wise, one thing you can do for yourself is wrap your hips and or belly, both to keep your core and womb warm, and help you feel more contained.
Wrapping makes you feel held and protected. It also helps to feel more present in your body, which is grounding and can reduce anxiety and stress. There is something about being wrapped that feels very primal, like a baby in the womb, or a baby being swaddled. I believe the calming effect is a mix of being able to feel the contours of one’s body, and also being reminded of the primal sensations of being in our mother’s womb.
Interestingly I have found (and others too), that it helps with my mental health. I think this has to do with both the feeling contained and the more energetic/protective aspect. In this blog post a woman describes how head wrapping helped her with anxiety, and my experience with pelvis/belly wrapping feels very similar.
On a spiritual/energetic level, wrapping it helps you to feel grounded, return to your centre, feel less ‘open’ and gives a sense of protection. In many indigenous cultures, protecting the womb with a belt is a common practise for these reasons.
I have written a blog about wrapping for wellbeing which contains a simple tutorial, and also one about postnatal wrapping, which has links to a range of tools you can use for this purpose, from scarves, to velcro wraps, to clothing, and Japanese inspired waist warmers called haramakis.
Here is a list of organisations and resources for support in the UK after a miscarriage
Charities and organisations
This charity provides memory boxes for different stages of pregnancy, including early pregnancy.
- Why postnatal recovery matters (Chapter on special circumstances)
- Why baby loss matters
A long list of links about other organizations here
I have made this simple miscarriage recovery plan template which you can download, print, and share, to use as a way to list what you might need and what help to ask for.