For many women, the word "sad" doesn't even begin to describe the feelings that follow pregnancy loss. "Devastated" is likely closer to the truth, and "feeling like your soul was run over by a steam roller and put through a paper shredder" can be even closer (although it may still not come close to doing verbal justice to the experience).
Suffice it to say, it's normal to feel bad after a miscarriage or stillbirth. But at what point do normal feelings of loss become cause for concern? Here are some questions to ask yourself, as well as tips to keep in mind when deciding whether to see a mental health counselor.
- Do you feel you need a counselor?
When you're going through emotional turmoil and everyone's giving you advice, it's easy to forget to pay attention to your own opinion. If you yourself feel you would benefit from seeing a mental health professional, that's a pretty good sign that you probably should see one.
- Are you displaying signs of clinical depression (or anxiety)?
Symptoms of depression might be feelings of sadness and emptiness, hopelessness, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, trouble concentrating, appetite changes and other such symptoms.
Clinical anxiety symptoms might manifest as bothersome worry and tension that doesn't match the situation, which can lead to trouble falling asleep, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, aches, irritability, nausea, and other related symptoms.
- How long has it been since your miscarriage?
Grief in the aftermath of a pregnancy loss can have signs similar to depression, but that does not necessarily mean that you should be diagnosed with clinical depression. If your miscarriage was recent and you are overwhelmed, you will probably begin to cope over time, especially if you have a good support network to help you through the experience.
Still, many women (and men) face persistent depression and anxiety after pregnancy loss. If your miscarriage was more than a few months ago and you are still having trouble, a professional might be able to help.
- Is your relationship under stress?
If you and your partner are constantly at each other's throats, and the problems started after the pregnancy loss, it could be that the two of you have some issues related to the loss that are affecting the rest of your relationship. In these cases, it may help to see a relationship counselor -- particularly one trained in the experience of fertility and miscarriage. Support groups can sometimes help refer you to an experienced relationship counselor.
- Remember that being upset after a miscarriage is normal and OK. It is appropriate to deeply grieve a pregnancy loss, even if it was very early. There is nothing wrong with you if you are intensely sad about a miscarriage or stillbirth.
- If you need professional assistance, that is also perfectly OK. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you. A miscarriage or stillbirth is a major life event, and there's no shame in needing help to cope.
Lok, I.H., and R. Neugebauer, "Psychological morbidity following miscarriage." Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol Apr 2007. Accessed 17 Apr 2008.
National Institute of Mental Health, "Anxiety Disorders." Health & Outreach 3 Apr 2008. Accessed 17 Apr 2008.
National Institute of Mental Health, "What Are the Symptoms of Depression?." Health & Outreach 8 Apr 2008. Accessed 17 Apr 2008.