Regardless of how early a miscarriage occurs, the physical impact is huge. On top of the devastating emotional and hormonal repercussions of miscarriage, the process involves blood loss-or even hemorrhage-as well as contractions which are essentially labor pains. Physically miscarriage may require as much time to recover as a full-term live birth, if it was particularly severe or occurred well into pregnancy. 1
Whether the miscarriage is completed by the natural process, or surgically, it is almost always physically draining. Having experienced both, I found them each to be very difficult, but also having different physical impacts.
With the natural miscarriage, I experienced labor labor pains, made all the worse by my fear and the trauma of severe blood-loss. While the hours during the process were tremendously difficult, physical recovery was relatively quick. After the D&C, my body took much longer to get back into its normal order, and required a little assistance. I struggled for a few days with anemia, and then horrendous monthly cycles, with severe mood swings, hemorrhagic bleeding, and general exhaustion.
Neither of these experiences were uncommon.2 What happens may vary from woman to woman. The physical impact may be greater the farther along in the pregnancy the miscarriage occurred.
To take “down time” and take good care of the body after delivering a healthy baby is natural and encouraged. Women who have been through pregnancy but have no baby to hold in their arms may have a harder time giving themselves the rest and care they need. And others may expect them to jump right back into life, not realizing the physical and emotional devastation that has occurred.
Of primary importance to recovery is maintaining contact with the medical professional(s) who assisted with the immediate issues surrounding the miscarriage. The doctor or midwife who walked through the pregnancy and loss with a woman will know her, have her medical history, and be the best resource for medical advice during recovery. They will be able to say whether anemia is a problem and extra iron is needed, or whether symptoms are hinting at infection, or at what point post-miscarriage bleeding is abnormal or dangerous.
There are some things that a woman can do for herself to promote physical recovery. The first thing being to rest, rest, rest. Whenever our body suffers illness or trauma, sleep is hugely important to allowing for healing and rebuilding. 3
Like sleep, other health-promoting practices should be practiced conscienciously after a miscarriage, as the body is physically more fragile and not as willing to “bounce back” when health is neglected. Things like staying well-hydrated, eating a very healthy diet (with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables that provide natural iron and other very important nutrients), good hygiene, and getting sunlight and fresh air will help with recovery from the stress and blood loss of miscarriage.
As well, “taking care” includes comfort measures. Heating pads (or their frugal cousin, rice bags) can help take the edge of residual cramps and pain, as well as ease muscles tense from stress. Take naps when needed. If possible, get someone to help with household duties so that physical strain and the stress of “getting it all done” is reduced as much as possible.
Above all, remember that recovery is a process. Physical health will take a little while to return. Emotional health may take much longer. While going through that process, be good to yourself.
1Miscarriage, staff writers, American Pregnancy Association
2Miscarriage-symptoms, staff writers, WebMD
3Importance of Sleep, staff writers, Harvard Medical School