Counselling can provide a safe space to talk about feelings following miscarriage that might not feel acceptable, says our member Sarah Wheatley.
While more than one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage, Sarah says that, for a number of reasons, it is often not spoken about.
She says miscarriage can impact on relationships and can lead to a whole range of personal feelings from grief to isolation, from anger to shame.
Sarah said: “Counselling can provide space to look at all these aspects and a safe place to talk about feelings that maybe don’t feel acceptable in the outside world.”
Sarah was speaking as new research reveals that one in six women experience long-term post-traumatic stress (PTSD) following miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Scientists at Imperial College London and KU Leuvenin Belgium looked into the psychological impact of early miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy on more than 650 women.
Published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the study found that one month following pregnancy loss, nearly a third of women (29%) had PTSD symptoms, one in four (24%) experienced moderate to severe anxiety, and 11% moderate to severe depression.
Nine months later, 18% of women had PTSD, 17% moderate to severe anxiety, and 6% moderate to severe depression.
Sarah said that when people are bereaved there is often help available, but that people who experience a miscarriage can be isolated with little or no support for their grieving.
“Quite often, family members, friends or work are not aware,” said Sarah, who runs Birth and Beyond, in Edinburgh, which offers counselling for pregnant women and mothers.
“You may not have talked about trying for a baby, because it is a very personal thing, and it can be very hard to bring up a conversation when people don’t know.
“There can be a lot of isolation because there are not many places to talk about it.”
Sarah said she has supported people who had experienced multiple miscarriages who feel that they cannot talk about it for fear of boring people.
“If you are surrounded by people who are having babies or are pregnant it can put a distance in your relationship,” Sarah said. “In my experience, there are feelings like jealousy or anger. It might feel unfair.
“It might not feel okay to have these emotions. You might feel like a horrible person, but counselling can be a safe space to talk about them.”
She added: “Counselling can also create a space for grief. It can be hard to find space for that in the outside world.
“Some of the language used by professionals can be unhelpful. They might see things in a medical way and don’t talk about the baby, which doesn’t allow for grief.
“Another of the things it can be really helpful to talk about in counselling is the visceral experience. It might feel shameful to talk about the physical aspect. Embarrassment, physical pain and the feeling of being exposed can all be potentially traumatising.
“For somebody who has had a miscarriage, there’s maybe a need to take medication to make sure it happens properly, and they might be trying to carry on with their day-to-day life and having to deal with the impact.”
Sarah added: “That safe space to work through all of these feelings can really help.”
To talk to a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist about pregnancy-related issues, visit our Therapist directory.
Read our members' experiences and your stories of how counselling can help you through pregnancy, miscarriage and being a new parent.
Finding a ‘safe space’ to share feelings after a miscarriage can help with the isolation
Our member Sarah Wheatley on what can support women going through the ‘unsupported grief’ of a miscarriage
Report highlights impact of specialist counselling after baby loss
“This would create a national safety-net of support to help parents at this immensely difficult time”