Miscarriage and its psychological implications

Miscarriage and its psychological implications

Miscarriage as an experience can have immense psychological impact on women who have gone through it. The response displayed by each and every woman tends to be varied. A miscarriage affects women at many levels such as it robs her from the opportunity of gaining the identity of a parent and raising a child. It can further manifest itself in the form of trauma. Therefore, one buffer against the trauma faced by women can be social support whereas isolation can have harmful consequences manifesting themselves at the psychological level. What makes the situation worse is how the mourning for the lost child is ignored and the women are again burdened with expectations of bearing another child. In some cultures it is considered better for the women to deal with her pain in isolation as the society considers it as a source of shame, embarrassment and humiliation. Additionally, there is stigma imposed making the situation blow out of proportion for women at a psychological level. A study found that there has been increase in the levels of anxiety reported lasting up to 4 months in women after an episode of miscarriage. Additional disorders present were depression (Tatsara & Johnson, 2002). The situation gets unbearable and stressful as it is not only affects her own relationship with herself but also the relationship that she shares with her spouse and other family members. Other disorders reported area: Post Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic and obsessive compulsive disorders. But, there is a high degree of stigma associated with both miscarriage and mental health which deprives these women of accessing help. Therefore, there is a deep sense of loss and grief that women often feel the urge and need to talk about. In addition to that their sense of meaning making about life also gets destroyed which they try to build piece by piece but if the stressful situation endures, psychological help is immediately required. Therefore, there are an enormous number of coping strategies that women engage in depending on their cultural and religious beliefs as they play a major role in dictating the norms of a society. For example: In a study it was found out that Taiwanese Mothers because of the cultural norms  prevalent were forbidden from holding any conversations surrounding the death of the baby nor were allowed to participate any rituals associated with the child’s death. But, one must remember that the way a person reacts to the grief associated with abortion depends on the response of the significant others and one’s own personal situations. In some societies, women are not even empowered to talk about their feelings openly with anyone leading to emotional stress and turmoil along with the sufferings associated with the loss.

Since miscarriage is largely treated with the help of medical sciences, there is an underlying sense of neglect when talking about the psychological underpinnings of abortion. But, it’s very important to talk about the psychosocial aspects of loss faced by women and support them to the outmost level possible. There should be interventions tailored to decrease the negative psychological implications and build resilience in women so that they can deal effectively and engage in meaning making. The meaning making that has been shattered in terms of the identity markers associated with failed pregnancy, loss of a baby, attributes associated with the role of mother and father should be addressed. The maladaptive coping strategies and blaming should be channelized and replaced with adaptive and healthy ways of coping. The process must continue until and unless the stress, anxiety and fear associated hasn’t lessened and reached a level of acceptance. Therefore, unhealthy behaviors must be modified. One unhealthy coping mechanism would be by attaching a sense of personal responsibility and self-blame that constantly leads to pain and seen as an adequate punishment to deal with the loss.    Exposing them to the medical reason may actually allow them to cope with the loss well as they wouldn’t attribute it to internal characteristics. They should be allowed to talk about their loss as vividly as they want to and their freedom of expression should not be curbed. The whole family structure should be psycho-educated about the psychological underpinnings and how this structure can help act as a barrier to the sense of loss faced by the women. Another important realization is that since the women recognizes the fetus as completely separate from her own self the whole idea of grieving for herself would be very difficult. Hence, the loss is invisible and should be acknowledged. One way in which family members can contribute in identifying the signs of grief can be loss of appetite, increased levels of irritation and inability to carry out the activities of their daily living. And one must always remember that different women have different notions in regard to pregnancy and one should respect one’s outlook without filtering it with judgments.

About the Author

Harsha Baid
Student, Completed B.A Hons. Psychology, Pursuing M.A Psychology at Delhi University, North Campus.

My name is Harsha Baid. I am a first year master’s degree student in Psychology at Delhi University (DU). My experience of academically being

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