The American Pregnancy Association reports that up to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks of gestation. The majority of miscarriages (about three in every four) happen within the first trimester, mostly caused by chromosomal abnormalities in the baby.
There is a myriad of factors that play into an increased risk of miscarriages — such as a woman’s BMI and age. In women with a BMI over 30, for example, the risk is one in four. In women under 30 years old, just one in 10 pregnancies will end in miscarriage but, in women over 45, however, more than half of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage. But the fact of the matter is: Miscarriages just happen, and women can do little to avoid them.
Nonetheless, the loss of a pregnancy can be devastating for expecting parents. Researchers at the Imperial College London published a study in BMJ Open that suggests that four in 10 women who miscarry report experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) three months after miscarrying. These symptoms include moderate to severe anxiety, depression and distress. Women also reported regularly re-experiencing the feelings associated with losing their pregnancies, being plagued by “intrusive or unwanted thoughts” and suffering from nightmares or flashbacks. Many women, therefore, reported avoiding any triggers that could remind them of their miscarriages and induce their PTSD.
The amalgamation of symptoms could make going back to work following the loss of a pregnancy particularly difficult for a lot of women. In fact, nearly a third of women said that their symptoms indeed impacted their work life.
So we asked women who’ve gone back to work after miscarrying about their experiences and how they coped while still being productive. Here’s what they had to say…
"I was working at a radio station and there were three of us trying to get pregnant at the same time — as the oldest of the three women (and who had been trying the longest), I fully expected the other two to get pregnant and for me to watch them have their babies since that had been my path so far," says Jen Peterson. "However, in the fall of 2010, I found out that I was pregnant the same week as one of the women! We were thrilled, but I didn't tell anyone other than her and the other woman who was trying to get pregnant. At week 10.5, I had a miscarriage. My boss at the time was my boss at a previous job and we were friends. I called him and told him what was up and he told me to take whatever time I needed. I also called the other pregnant woman and asked her to share her news while I was out so that the excitement would die down by the time I came back (and it did).
"It was incredibly difficult to watch that other woman progress with her pregnancy and know that my baby would have been due at the same time. My kind boss let me work from home as the other woman came closer to delivery time so that I didn't have to be there when announcements happened. I was genuinely excited and happy for her, but it was a stab in my heart as her pregnancy progressed. She was truly wonderful and sensitive to my feelings and we are still friends to this day. I ended up getting pregnant again in early 2011 and now have a healthy six-year-old son. That said, I still get a little pang when I see her celebrate her daughter's birthday on Facebook."
"The hardest thing to go back after was the D & C I had. That wiped me out for a few days. I remember being scheduled for a huge event that I was doing hair and makeup for, and the morning of it I actually miscarried. I couldn't cancel, and I had to go, so I was actually at work, cramping and feeling like crap the whole day. I cried out in the parking lot with my coworker and then sucked it up and went to work. I had a few hard moments throughout that day where I needed to take a minute for myself, but being at the event actually helped me to stay distracted.
"The next day I slept a lot and tried to re-coup. It wasn't my first, (or second or third) so I pretty much knew the drill and was able to get back on my feet pretty quickly."
"I experienced a pregnancy loss in 2016 — It was my first pregnancy and my husband and I were very excited," says Mahlet Endale of Crossroads Mental Wellness Services. "At our eight-week appointment they tried to find a heartbeat but couldn’t locate it. The midwife said the baby might just be hiding behind my pubic bone and not to worry about it. Two weeks later I was not feeling well (especially fatigued and worn) so I stayed home from work. Later that afternoon I went for a long walk and at one point felt a sharp pain. That night I noticed I was spotting. We called the midwife line and the midwife on call said it was probably nothing, but to come in for a check just for peace of mind. I went to the appointment alone because we really expected everything to be fine, and I learned the baby didn’t have a heartbeat. This was 10 weeks into the pregnancy, but from their examination they determined I’d lost the baby around six weeks. They gave me options of letting things progress naturally or to get a D&C, and I opted for the former not realizing the implications. I remember the midwife tried to explain what to expect and something about options for pain management, but I didn’t register anything she said. The midwife did something internally, still don’t know what it was to this day, and said that they couldn’t give me a timeline for how long it would take but that this procedure would hopefully move things along faster. I was devastated.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.