Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NOT just "like a heavy period"

I have heard lots of people say that "a miscarriage is basically just like a heavy period."

That is simply not true. Don't say it. Don't think it. Don't be fooled by it.

A miscarriage that occurs in the first few weeks of pregnancy may have the physical characteristics of a menstrual period: several days of cramping and bleeding. It might even seem like a 'normal' period to some women. A woman who didn't know that she was pregnant might even mistake a miscarriage for a period. All the same, if the woman knew she was pregnant, then even these early and physically easy miscarriages may carry an emotional toll that a regular menstrual period does not.
Some mothers really do have a miscarriage that is just like a period. For whatever reason, they do not grieve, or do not grieve very much. If you are one of those mothers you should not feel guilty about it, nor feel that your miscarriage was any less than someone elses. However this experience seems to happen in the minority of cases.
I miscarried this baby at 5 weeks gestation, and physically the process was like a textbook menstrual period. It was not the same as my normal periods which was one of the reasons I knew it was a miscarriage, but to another woman it could have been completely normal. However, if you read what I wrote at the time, it is obvious that my emotional state was not "just like a period" at all. I was grieving.

Somewhere between 6-10 weeks another change occurs. It varies from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy, but somewhere in there the baby gets large enough that the physical process of miscarriage stops being like a period, and starts being more like labor. The uterus must contract and the cervix must open in order to expel the baby and placenta and other "products of conception."
When I experienced my first miscarriage I was 14 1/2 weeks along. I labored on and off for almost a full day, but had no idea what was going on. I thought I had intestinal gas, but hindsight tells me that it was actually labor contractions. I knew that a full-term stillborn baby would require labor and delivery, but I had never guessed that a baby only 4 inches long might also require labor.
It is my understanding (and my experience) that the labor of miscarriage is often shorter than a full-term labor would be, because a smaller baby can be delivered with less cervical dilation and pushing. Some women feel that it is something like the "first half" of labor. Others feel that it is very comparable to laboring with a full-term child.

This is one of those big unspoken secrets: many miscarriages are not like a heavy period, they are the labor and birthing of a baby.


ashley said...

Thank you for sharing this! Very informative and helpful to those that don't have a full grasp on what a
miscarriage really is like.

Mallory said...

Thank you for posting this. I had no idea. I'm glad that I'm learning this now, in case I end up dealing with a miscarriage sometime in my life. Rather than learning this after going through a difficult miscarriage. I'm sure it makes a difference (even if just a little) to know what is going on during that trial.

Kayce Pearson said...

Thank you for sharing this!!

My first miscarriage I think I was about six weeks, and I bled for weeks. Cramps so bad I couldn't move. Definitely not a normal period. Same with my second loss. About six weeks, exact same thing but with less bleeding. Third miscarraige, it was exactly like a period. Same amount of bleeding, same length, same cramps. The last one was almost 14 weeks, and it was labor. I contracted for over 18 hours, dilated, and had my baby.

They aren't like a heavy period. And telling women that they are can make them so very worried when it is completely different.

Thank you for writing this!!!

Katrina said...

I wholeheartedly agree. The physical and emotional pain I endured during mine was intense and I thought I might be bleeding to death. I was very much grieving and it took a long while to work through. But it's not something you ever completely "get over", either, as you know.

mamapoekie said...

Thanks for sharing your view on such a difficult topic. I have put it in my Sunday Surf. Hugs and healing to you

Thystle said...

I miscarried at 11 weeks after bleeding for several days and having an ultrasound for confirmation. I already had one son born naturally, so I can attest to the fact that I did experience it very much as a mini-labor, complete with total relief afterwards and 6 weeks of wonky hormonal moodiness.

But I would like to add, that for me it was incredibly healing to have that experience, that feeling and recognition that I did indeed birth something (in this particular case there was no baby just a sac, which is why the pregnancy ended). The discomfort/labor pains didn't come as contractions but more continuous like menstrual cramps, yet the intensity was much like labor, where I needed to focus on them and think about surrendering to them.

My OB encouraged me to have miscarriage naturally instead of a D&C and I'm glad I did and didn't have a chance to take pain meds because the little labor was part of my emotional process to acknowledge that I did have a pregnancy and a birth. I realize that this certainly won't be everyone's experience, but it was incredibly healing for me to have the labor like experience, once I accepted what was happening to the pregnancy.

Mrs. said...

I have had a miscarriage and it is not the same as a period, and how dare someone state this. It was almost like labor for me and it was very emotional. Thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

Yes. They are not just like a heavy/late period. My first was just at 6 weeks and a day, but that was not normal pain and bleeding. It really bugs me when someone suggests that it was. Thank you for sharing.

I got here from your tallow candle post. My son and I made some today :)

Lily said...

Thanks for this. The more of us who talk out about baby loss the better.

I lost two babies at 17 weeks before having my daughter (with a lot of medical assistance). 10 years later, I still have the names and birthdays of those absent babies engraved on my heart.

Again, thank you.

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