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Depression After Miscarriage - Agony Aunt

Ask Anne

Dear Anne

After 12 years of being single and working professionally, I married 3 years ago and unfortunately lost our baby at 26 weeks. Birth, funeral, the lot. I have then, through post-natal depression, been off work for 8 weeks, and have been made redundant from a job I held for 14 years. Anyhow, I looked on the bright side: never been out of work for nearly 25 years, time to relax! Which I started to do. I then found out I was pregnant again. We were both overjoyed but this soon deminished when a scan proved the baby had not developed.

Once again I was admitted to hospital for a procedure. I have been slow to ask for help but since last October have been seeing a counsellor, which does help me, but I keep having terrible low moods and then I hit the bottle. A couple of days later I come out of it thinking, %u201CWhat the hell are you doing? I am at my wits end as to how to get out of this so-called depression. Is it usual? Because I feel so threatened by everything at the moment and cannot see a way forward. J

Dear J

Thank you for your letter. I'm sorry to hear that you have lost two children. For any woman their babies not being able to survive is a dreadful blow, and though you were able to hold a funeral for the first child, often this does little more than lance the boil to let the grief out. Miscarriage is often a trigger for low mood, and compounded as it is by the change in your work situation, it's hardly surprising that you feel depressed. The feelings of being threatened and fearful of the future are a natural response to such tough times but they will pass.

I am glad that you are seeing a counsellor, and that this is helping. Overcoming these multiple blows will take time so please be patient and gentle with yourself. Here are some ideas which may help too. You will know which, if any, are relevant to you.

Both pregnancy and miscarriage result in hormonal disruption. I don't know whether you've talked things through with your doctor but it could be that she will be able to suggest medication which will help you rebalance your hormonal system so that you feel more able to tackle the underlying practical and emotional difficulties. This approach could also mean that you do not feel the urge to drink to blank out your low moods. While the drink may block them temporarily, the ill-health attendant on drinking bouts will also pull you down and could be dangerous to yourself and to any future pregnancies.

It's also common with miscarriage for the mother to blame herself, although there is seldom anything she could have done to prevent it. Guilt is part of the normal bereavement process and is often exacerbated when it has to do with children. It's not necessarily rational, but it is extremely common.

It's part of anger, which is another task of mourning: a rage against the universe which has let this happen; very often too anger against the person who has died for leaving you, and anger at yourself because you couldn't stop it. There is also sadness, and rebuilding your life with a new place in your memory for the person you have lost. If you have a faith, talking all this through with a religious leader could be helpful. Often people are somehow reluctant to let go and move on, as though rebuilding their life were somehow a betrayal of the deceased, but it's not. You may find it useful to visit the website at www.miscarriage.org.nz , and your GP's surgery may be able to put you in touch with a support organisation in your area. These days the grief of miscarriage is better understood, and there is help for you if you're willing to accept it.

Something that puzzles me is why you refer to your feelings as so-called depression. Depression is just a label to describe what you are going through. Your feelings are real so please don't blame yourself for feeling this way. One of the horrible things about depression is the mistaken belief that you will always feel like this. You will overcome your depression in time if you let yourself. Counselling and other forms of help will mean that you get back on an even keel more quickly than you might otherwise have done.

For more on overcoming depression, why not visit my website at www.emotionalmagic.net ? Small, achievable targets will be supportive, as will enjoying whatever healthy pleasures you can. For a while you may find it hard to feel any pleasure at all but by making the effort to do something pleasurable, you will give yourself the best chance of recovering more quickly. Your skills and good qualities are still there. You can use them for yourself, and when you are ready you can engage once more with your career.

You do have my sympathy. I understand the tragedy of losing babies but you can recover in time. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Good luck!Back to Ask Anne

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