Healing After a Pregnancy Loss
Take care of your body
Get plenty of rest. It will take six weeks for your body to return to its normal pre-pregnancy state. The stress of birth and the process of healing will demand rest for your body. You need at least eight hours of sleep at night and perhaps even a nap during the day.
Limit activity. Avoid heavy lifting and don’t overdo physical activity. Your body is healing, and too much activity may cause increased bleeding. Exercise is good if it’s not too strenuous and is done in moderation. Walking is an excellent way to release stress and be active. You may eventually return to your normal exercise routine after your follow-up visit with your doctor.
Bathe daily. Showers are recommended over tub bathing because of infection risk. If you have stitches, be sure to use your peri bottle each time you urinate and then pat dry. After each bowel movement (BM), rinse with the peri bottle from front to back and clean well. You don’t want to pull or rub stitches; they will dissolve in two to three weeks. Hard BMs may be uncomfortable because of your stitches. Fruits and vegetables should help keep BMs soft, but you may need a stool softener. If you have hemorrhoids, you may get relief with Tucks pads and Epifoam. The hospital will send your sitz bath home with you to help relieve discomfort from your stitches.
Eat a well-balanced diet. Food may be your last priority now, but good nutrition is needed to provide energy for your body to heal.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Continue taking prenatal vitamins
- Eat proteins that are needed for healing (milk, cheese, eggs, chicken, fish and red meat)
Limit junk foods. Fluctuating blood sugar levels will exacerbate hormonal mood swings
- Drink plenty of fluids – eight large glasses/day (water, juice, milk)
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Post a list of healthy foods on your refrigerator to remind you that you are healing.
Watch for vaginal bleeding. Bright red, heavy bleeding may last for three days, followed by a lighter pinkish to brown discharge that can last up to 10 days, which is then followed by a yellowish-white discharge lasting up to 21 days.
Bleeding may last up to four to six weeks and may be followed by your normal menstrual cycle. You may notice an increase in bleeding when you get home because of increased activity. This bleeding is from the area on your uterus where the placenta was attached. This area is healing, so pelvic rest is recommended. Pelvic rest means nothing (tampons, douches) is placed in the vagina.
Understand pain. Cramping is normal as your uterus is returning to its normal size. “After cramps” are usually worse if this was not your first pregnancy. Your doctor should give you a prescription for pain relief. However, most mothers find that over-the-counter cramping medicine is effective after two to three days.
Take special care of a cesarean section. If you have had a C-section, you are recovering from surgery. Your doctor should prescribe pain medicine that you may need to use for a longer time. When you shower, don’t rub over stitches. Just allow the water to run over them and pat them dry. Keep your incision as dry as possible. If you have Steri-Strips, they should fall off by themselves within one week
Be aware of breast care needs. Your body may start producing milk two or three days after birth. Breasts may become engorged and be extremely uncomfortable for several days. Hand expressing of milk supply just enough to relieve pressure will be helpful to decrease this pain. You may apply cold compresses or cold cabbage leaves to your breasts for comfort. Wear a supportive bra as needed.
Resume sexual activity carefully. Most doctors recommend you have a follow-up checkup before you resume sexual activity. When you do resume having sex, a personal lubricant may be needed for comfort. During this time you are fertile, so use contraception. Discuss future pregnancies with your doctor. The usual recommendation is to have several normal menstrual cycles before conceiving.
Do Kegel exercises. Start performing 10 Kegel exercises a day after delivery to help tighten your pelvic floor muscles. You can do this exercise by tightening muscles as if holding back urine for three seconds and then relax.
Be aware of hormonal changes. As your body heals, there is a normal shift in hormone levels. This shift may cause emotional swings, making it harder to deal with grief. Give yourself time for levels to balance out. If you need extra help, talk with your doctor about possible medications.
Take care of your emotional self
Develop a support system. Communicate with your partner and rely on each other. Surround yourself with people you are comfortable talking with about your baby and your feelings.
Learn about grief. Excellent resources (books, websites) are available to educate you about grief and ways you can help yourself on your grief journey.
Keep a journal. Journaling gives you an outlet for emotions. It can help you look at your emotions more objectively, so you can discover ways to work through grief.
Remember your child. Your child has died, but you are still a mother. It is okay to remember your precious baby by giving your baby a name and memorializing him or her. Journaling and scrapbooking are ways to create lasting memories of your baby. Some parents like to plant a tree or flower in memory. Be creative and find the way that’s right for you.
Take care of your spiritual self
You cannot avoid the wound that is in your heart. It is the most painful wound of the three, and it must heal just as your body and mind must. Incorporate your religious beliefs in your grief work. Many find that they are unable to heal without their faith. It will give you strength and comfort on your grief journey.
Seek the support that you need. There are many groups that focus on grief recovery. Being with other parents who are walking their own grief journey helps you to know that you are not alone. It also may give you ideas to help you on your own journey.