“Miscarriages are like heavy periods.” I don’t understand where this phrase comes from at all. After diagnosis of a miscarriage, many women hear the words, “It will be like a heavy period.” Sometimes the medical professional adds, “And you might see more clots and pass tissue.” There is rarely mention of pain or contractions. Do doctors not understand that some women do not cramp at all during their periods? So now, when a woman who wouldn’t normally cramp during her periods, experiences this crampy feeling, what are her thoughts?
Let me explain. I teach childbirth education classes and we discuss contractions, pressure waves, etc during the childbirth preparation. I prefer to relate the pain of contractions to something they have felt before, menstrual cramps, diarrhea cramps, ovulation pain, etc. It can give a general idea on where they might feel contractions. I also explain that these are functions that do not mean something is wrong.
Because nearly all the experiences of pain we have are signals that there is something wrong.
So, pain = something is wrong.
In the case of menstrual cramps, contractions, etc, pain is not a signal that something is wrong but we don’t typically think of it this way and again, a woman who doesn’t experience menstrual cramps will be confused about what is taking place in her body. So now, this woman begins the miscarriage process and she is cramping (contracting) and now, because all her prior experiences of pain signaled something was wrong, she will likely think that something is wrong. And fear sets in.
Now the woman has fear in a very emotional situation where she is already deeply hurting. When you put physical pain together with emotional pain, the combined pain is off the charts. It can be too much to manage at all.
Now imagine that the medical professional explained the process a bit more. “You will likely bleed heavily, pass clots and tissue (grey, pink, and red), you may see the baby in full form or partial form, and you will likely experience cramping or contracting. If the pain is too unbearable, you may take this medication I have prescribed to you.” Then they add some warning signs, “If you bleed through more than 1 pad an hour, please contact us, if you pass any clots larger then the size of an egg/plum call us immediately or head to the emergency room, and if you see the baby you may put the baby in a bag or box and place them in the refrigerator and then call us.” Then they add even more, “You may begin bleeding more heavily after you pass tissue and this can be a sign of retained tissue. Keep an eye on this and if you feel faint, dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated please go to an emergency room. If you pass out, someone needs to call 911. This means that you should not miscarry alone and someone should be with you at all times.”
WOW! That is one awesome medical provider!
Knowledge is power and this woman would feel much more confident in her experience even though it is sad and emotionally difficult but at least she knows what is normal and what isn’t. This helps reduce fear and empowers her to take control.
But, miscarriage is treated just like a period. Women believe that “it’s no big deal.” That all the contents that emerge from her are to be flushed or discarded and when the gravity of the situation takes over, she is confused about why she is so sad and if she is worthy of grieving.
She is then silent about her experience and becomes shameful. She fears telling anyone because miscarriages are “like a heavy period” so what’s the big deal? Yet she mourns. She yearns for her baby. If she was in her second trimester, she may have held her baby (some can do this in the first trimester), she may have weeped over her baby and repeated to her baby over and over that she was sorry.
Yet miscarriage is like a heavy period. Society thinks, “Why is this woman so distraught, it was just a heavy period!” These experiences just irk me. This is not okay. Women ARE worthy of grief. Miscarriages are NOT like a heavy period. About the only time a miscarriage would be “like a heavy period” would be if it were to happen extremely early within the pregnancy, often so early the woman may not even suspect she was pregnant. This would be before 5 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriages after 5 weeks would likely be more painful.
All of these reasons and more are why I wrote the book, “It’s Not ‘Just’ a Heavy Period; The Miscarriage Handbook.” Women should have the information they need to make the best decisions they can when they are miscarrying. They should have the knowledge needed to feel empowered with their choices which helps reduce trauma and improves their coping as they grieve.
Why are so many medical providers causing more emotional trauma and hurt by dismissing this experience as a heavy period? We MUST change this! I want to mention a recent movement in the US to help change this. It’s called Don’t Talk About the Baby. I hope you will join me in supporting them so that this movie can come to fruition. We must stop the medical community and society from telling women miscarriage is no big deal. It is a big deal.
–Breaking the silence of first trimester miscarriage.