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Can Postpartum Depression Happen After a Miscarriage?

Having a miscarriage is an emotional and heartbreaking experience for any family to go through. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage in the first three months. Even though miscarriage happens often, it’s one of the most misunderstood complications that can affect a pregnancy. Sometimes there’s an underlying cause, but for most women, we don’t know why a miscarriage happened.

Most miscarriages happen early in pregnancy. Often times, it’s before you’ve even announced you’re pregnant. For this reason, a miscarriage can cause feelings of isolation and loneliness, alongside of grief and sadness. There are a whirlwind of emotions you may feel after a pregnancy loss – can postpartum depression be one of them?

Here’s what you need to know about depression after a miscarriage and how to find support when you’re grieving.

Depression after a miscarriage

When a miscarriage happens, it’s normal to feel a myriad of emotions. Many people form an attachment to their unborn baby as soon as they discover they’re expecting. One misconception surrounding pregnancy loss is that the grief will be less if the pregnancy wasn’t that far along. This idea is far from the truth and it’s not uncommon to go through a period of mourning - no matter how early the loss occurred.

Immediately after a miscarriage, most women go through a period of intense grief and sadness. Around 6 weeks, these feelings may begin to ease in intensity and continue to improve over the next several months. It’s hard to detect depression during this early mourning stage because the symptoms of grief and depression look so much alike.  But, research suggests that nearly 20% of women who miscarry will show signs of depression.

Whether you have a miscarriage or give birth to a full term baby, hormones drop when you’re no longer pregnant. This change in hormone levels is not as drastic after a miscarriage, but any shift can send your emotions on a downward spiral. Alongside hormonal imbalances, you’re grieving more than just the physical loss of a baby. You’re also mourning the dreams and future you had begun to imagine together.

Signs of depression after a miscarriage

Experiencing grief after a miscarriage is a normal and expected response. However, grief and depression look a lot alike. They both involve symptoms of sadness, crying, and changes in sleeping and eating. If symptoms continue to worsen as time goes on or they are interfering with your ability to go about your daily routine, you may be depressed.

Common signs of depression include:

  • Persistent sad or anxious mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or anger
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or pleasures
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself or others

Not everyone who is depressed will have every symptom. Suicidal thoughts or attempts to hurt yourself need to be addressed immediately. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available from the Suicide and Crisis Hotline. Just call 988. Someone is there to talk to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How long can depression last after a miscarriage?

Depression after a miscarriage can sometimes last anywhere from 1 to 3 years after the loss. This is partly because the subject of miscarriage is not talked about enough in today’s society. It’s taboo, leaving many women to suffer in silence because they feel alone and misunderstood. The burden of seeking help is placed on the person who had the miscarriage and many times healthcare providers don’t adequately screen women for depression. Because miscarriage happens so frequently, women may feel overlooked when it comes to their mental health afterwards.

Another misconception of miscarriage is that the grief of a loss will be magically wiped away if you can successfully get pregnant again. In fact, women are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety during a pregnancy if they’ve had a miscarriage in the past.

Ways to treat post-miscarriage depression

Treatment for depression will vary depending on your symptoms and how severe they are. You and your healthcare provider will discuss the options that work best for you. Treatment might include talking to a therapist, taking antidepressant medications, or a combination of both.

Make sure to let your healthcare provider know if you’re trying to get pregnant again. They’ll know which medications are OK for you to take if you become pregnant. Don’t assume that you can’t take any medications if you’re trying to conceive. Sometimes it’s better for you to take an antidepressant than not.

If you or someone you know has suffered a miscarriage, try Pink Stork’s Pregnancy Loss Recovery Bundle. This bundle comes with our Total Women's Multi, our Care Tea, and our Postpartum Sitz Bath which are all designed to help support your body after a pregnancy loss

Anxiety after a miscarriage

Besides depression, anxiety is another common feeling you may have after a miscarriage. Miscarriages often happen suddenly and without a known cause. This can leave you feeling unsure about your body’s ability to get pregnant in the future and carry a healthy baby to full term. Research has shown that anxiety following a miscarriage is more likely than depression for a full year after the loss.

Getting pregnant again can also stir up anxiety. Because you lost a pregnancy in the past, you might be so worried that you’re going to lose this pregnancy too. It can be hard to feel joy and excitement for your current pregnancy because you’re too overcome with worry.

Ways to help you cope after a miscarriage?

While there’s nothing anyone can say or do that will take away the pain, the best way to help you cope after a miscarriage is to surround yourself with a good support system. Find someone you trust and who understands the feelings you’re having.  Lean on them when you’re having a tough day.

Sometimes it’s hard for people who have not experienced a miscarriage to fully understand what you’re going through. If you’re having trouble building your support system with people you know or you don’t feel comfortable talking with family and friends, you can always turn to online support groups. SHARE and Postpartum Support International are two of the many organizations available to help you navigate through this incredibly tough moment in your life.

Most importantly, know that whatever emotions you’re having about your miscarriage are valid and you’re not alone. There is no timeline on when you should be done grieving a pregnancy loss. If you’re struggling with depression, help is available. Don’t hesitate and talk to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.