You’ve just been told that your baby/pregnancy isn’t viable, that there is no longer a heartbeat, or that you will be miscarrying; so what do you do now? Chances are, you were sent home with medication to induce the miscarriage or told to just go home and wait it out but do you really know all that you need to prepare for? Probably not.
Here is some practical information on how to prepare for your miscarriage. This is information you would likely never hear from your care provider.
Step 1. Before you leave the doctors office, ask for the following (if you have already left, you can call them or send someone back to their office).
- A list of warning signs.
- Induction medication instructions, warning signs, and how long it may take to work.
- A miscarriage kit (strainer, gloves, saline solution, container for remains/baby).
- Pain medication (prescription in hand or actual pills).
- A sleep aid (if you feel you will need it).
Step 2. Prepare your home by setting up the bathroom for the delivery process. Purchase a miscarriage kit. If you don’t have time to purchase a kit, use the information below to prepare.
- Have the strainer in the toilet (for every use)
- A container to place the baby/remains.
- Saline solution (for preserving and viewing the baby).
- Gloves on hand in case you feel like you need them (it’s okay to touch the baby/remains without gloves).
- Towels/wash clothes for cleaning up.
Step 3. Prepare emotionally.
- Talk with others who may have miscarried.
- Share your feelings with your partner and ask him how he is feeling/doing.
- Books are an excellent way to learn what others have felt and they can help validate your own feelings. It’s Not ‘Just’ a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook or The Miscarriage App, can be very helpful.
- Join an online support group and ask others about their experiences.
Step 4. Have someone with you. You should not miscarry or deliver your baby at home alone.
- Your partner or husband should be with you. If they are not available, a friend or other family member should be with you.
- Hire a professional such as a bereavement doula, loss doula, or perinatal loss specialist who can mentor you through this process.
- Ask if you can be induced and deliver in the hospital. For miscarriages beyond 10 weeks, this can be a very viable option. I recommend that all my clients deliver in a hospital when they are between 14 – 20 weeks.
Step 5. Consider testing. Doctors speculate that miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities but with so few women testing (only 13% of stillborn babies receive an autopsy), we just don’t know for sure if there is something you can do to prevent a miscarriage.
- Ask your doctor about the Anora Miscarriage test kit by Natera. This is a test on your baby’s remains and may give you some answers such as sex of the baby and the baby’s condition/chromosomes. For baby’s between 16-20 weeks an autopsy may also be performed.
- Ask your doctor to run blood tests on you which may reveal conditions like MTHFR and other antibody/antigen issues which could cause miscarriage.
- In a future pregnancy, consider progesterone testing to ensure your progesterone is at the optimal level for carrying a baby. This test should be done as soon as you become pregnant and monitored during the first trimester.
Step 6. Decide the final resting place for the baby/remains. You have many options available to you.
- Flushing (accidental or purposeful) is one option. If you feel guilt over flushing or would like to honor your baby, you can perform a water ceremony for miscarriage which can help to release some of the guilt and/or honor your baby.
- Burial (at home, at a cemetery, or other location). Be sure to check the local laws on home burial or burial at any other location other than a cemetery, you do not want to break local ordinances and laws. Burial at home is not usually recommended in the event that you might move. Some families choose to bury a tiny baby in a pot and plant a tree which is portable in the event of moving. Many cemetery’s offer communal burial or plots for miscarried babies and many are free. Be sure to inquire.
- Cremation. You will need to work with a mortuary or crematory for cremation if you are not utilizing the hospital cremation process. Please note that most hospitals cremate all biohazard together and that includes the baby/remains. You will also not receive any ashes back with hospital cremation/disposal. Many mortuaries and crematories will conduct the cremation free of charge. You might even be able to include special blankets or notes during that process. Be sure to inquire. With very early babies (13 weeks and earlier), you may not receive any ashes back.
Step 7. Create memories. Yes, there are ways to create memories, even for early miscarriages.
- Pictures can be taken of your very tiny baby either professionally or with your phone.
- Smells and scents can help you remember. Lavender is a very common scent used to help relax but it can also be used to help you remember. You may not think you will want to remember this experience but many women do.
- Name your baby. This can be very beneficial in validating your baby’s existence. It’s not something everyone does but many women enjoy naming their baby, even if they call their baby “peanut” or Baby (insert last name).
- Mementos don’t have to be elaborate. If you have a larger baby, you can try capturing handprints/footprints but with smaller babies, you will need be a bit more creative. Examples of mementos are sympathy cards, hospital admission bracelet (from you), remembrance jewelry, breastmilk pendant (if your milk came in), cord keepsake, blanket (with or without baby’s name on it), plant a tree, plant flowers, make a donation to a charity, etc.
- Create a miscarriage announcement.
- Attend annual events such as a candlelight vigil or remembrance walk. You can find local vigils and events here.
Step 8. Move forward.
- Understand that moving forward is not moving on. It will take time for you to feel like you can move, let alone move forward. Take your time moving forward.
- Seek a support group or one-on-one mentoring/counseling.
- You will likely never return to “normal” but will learn a new normal.
- There is no timeline on grief. Some people move through grief quickly and some move through grief more slowly. There is no right or wrong.
- Purchase a recovery kit.
- Grief is not depression.
Having a miscarriage is not easy, even if you might not have wanted the baby. It is emotionally and physically draining yet we are led to believe that this is an easy experience and it’s “no big deal.” Many women are confused when they are hurting yet are not treated as if this is a hurtful event. With the information above, women will understand how to prepare for your miscarriage. They will feel empowered and validated and will know they have options.