1 in 8 couples suffer from infertility in the United States. Infertility affects both women and men. It does not discriminate; affects people from all walks of life.
1 in 4 experience pregnancy loss. 1 in 100 experience recurrent pregnancy loss. As a woman who experienced IVF and miscarriage – let’s shed some light on miscarriage awareness to bring about support.
With my infertility diagnosis, I have done 4 cycles of IVF and I sadly had 3 miscarriages. My first one was due to an ectopic pregnancy – the embryo implanted outside my uterus. My second miscarriage, after doing some testing after my pregnancy loss, was due to an abnormal embryo. My third miscarriage was when I was pregnant with twins – one thankfully survived.
These miscarriages were devastating and brought great pain and heartache to myself and my husband. Was it something I did wrong that caused me to miscarry? Was I not meant to be a mother? Lots of sadness and confusion that I had to make sense of.
Miscarriage after IVF
A miscarriage is the natural death of an embryo or fetus before it is able to survive independently. The most common symptom of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding with or without pain. Tissue and clot-like material may leave the uterus and pass through and out of the vagina naturally, with the aid of medications, or by a procedure called a uterine dilation and curettage (D&C).
I still vividly remember the times I experienced a miscarriage. Waking up in the middle of the night with blood on the bed, calling the doctor frantically, going into the clinic for the ultrasound to confirm that there’s no longer a heartbeat, and having a D&C procedure done were painful memories.
Miscarriage after in vitro fertilization (IVF) is only slightly higher than in a normally conceived pregnancy. The cause of miscarriage after having IVF is likely very similar to any other pregnancy loss. Most miscarriages are thought to be due to chromosomal abnormalities in the developing baby, not because of IVF procedures.
Myths and Misconceptions
There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding miscarriage. A few that I’ve heard over the years are:
- You caused your miscarriage. This is far from the truth. As stated earlier, most miscarriages are due to some chromosomal abnormalities with the embryo or fetus, thus resulting in pregnancy loss. Unless you are smoking and drinking heavily or doing illicit drugs which puts you at a greater risk for pregnancy and birth complications, a woman does not cause miscarriages. This stigma needs to be erased because far too often, women may internalize this into guilt which causes much grief and may lead to depression.
- Stress, heavy lifting, exercise, or even having sex does not cause miscarriages. You just want to be careful that if you do engage in strenuous exercise or if you had an accident such as a fall, that you seek your medical provider’s input.
- Don’t talk about your miscarriage – it should be kept a secret. Keeping silent and not seeking support perpetrates even more guilt, disappointment, and loneliness in an already stressful battle when dealing with infertility and IVF.
Grief and Depression
Any miscarriage is painful emotionally. With IVF and its physical (the endless shots and medications) and financial (expensive procedures) toll, its toll on you emotionally can be overwhelming grief and depression.
With not many people even knowing we were going through IVF, having a miscarriage made us even feel lonelier in this infertility journey. I remember I took time off from work after the D&C. I thought I would be ready to go back after a few days – I stepped into my classroom and just cried uncontrollably. If it wasn’t for a coworker’s hug and suggestion to take more time off, I probably would have been more of an emotional wreck.
Honestly the best thing to do is give your body and soul time to heal and grieve from your pregnancy loss – it is after all a death. A death of a loved one you never met, but loved from the very beginning. It is okay to feel sad and mad or whatever other emotions you may be feeling – it is important to acknowledge it and seek help to heal from it.
Support and Resources
Whether you turn to your partner, a family member, close friend, coworker, or even a therapist, it is vital to seek support after experiencing a miscarriage.
You can join a support group in person or online to hear of others going through the same situation, share your story, and gain insights on how to heal and ultimately move forward.
Reading can be a source of healing and I found solace in reading books on how to deal with my pregnancy loss. Here are some helpful ones –
Not Broken: An Approachable Guide to Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss by Lora Shahine M.D.
According to an editorial review on Amazon “The title for Not Broken is based on kintsugi, a Japanese art form in which broken pottery is repaired with gold or silver. It is a philosophy that embraces the cracks as something that should be highlighted, not hidden. Such a sentiment is the foundation of Dr. Shahine’s work and, in a world where every aspect of pregnancy from the sex of the child and beyond is blamed solely on the mother, Dr. Shahine breaks that misconception and works to ease the burden of guilt as well as provide practical easy-to-understand solutions. She writes as someone who is in the reader’s corner, and Not Broken is sure to be an excellent well of information – whether it’s a couple struggling with pregnancy, or anyone looking to gain a wider range of knowledge. Not Broken by Dr. Lora Shahine is a great resource to have.” – Kayti Nika Raet for Readers’ Favorite
I particularly liked this book because the author writes from the perspective of her being a board certified reproductive endocrinologist. Dr. Shahine is the director of the Recurrent Pregnancy Loss Program at Pacific NW Fertility in Seattle, WA. Her bio states that she is committed to increasing awareness and furthering research in infertility and miscarriage as a clinical instructor at the University of Washington.
This book is written by a couple specifically for couples, understanding that both spouses have experienced a loss and grieve differently. According to it’s Amazon book review, the Fanucci’s use their Catholic tradition and teachings to gently guide you through:
- The physical and emotional experiences of miscarriage – including help in making the hardest decisions
- How couples respond to grief – and how to support each other
- Turning to family, friends, and the Church – finding help and support from loved ones and your Church community
- The future after miscarriage – where to go from here as a couple
It is important to note that miscarriage affects both partners and this book acknowledges that. As a Catholic, I struggled with my faith when I was dealing with IVF and my miscarriages. This book helped my husband and I to not lose faith but rather lean on our faith for support and guidance.
I did a review on this book previously. What I didn’t note is that it also contains great information on how one can prevent miscarriage. These helpful insights can give you a better or fresh perspective on your infertility journey that you may have not considered before. It’s been recommended by many women who have had failed IVF treatments and numerous miscarriages.
One Amazon reader review stated “This book is everything! I would highly recommend reading this as a first step to anyone having trouble conceiving or having recurrent miscarriages.”
Another Amazon reader Pamela Woods states that “after 5 years of trying to conceive, 3 miscarriages, failed IVF, countless other fertility treatments; I bought this book.”
I was blessed with two rainbow babies – children that are born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. It is stated that “After every storm there is a rainbow. After a greater storm, there is even a brighter rainbow.” – author unknown.
I am forever grateful to my husband (my ultimate support partner) and the wonderful doctors and nurses that provided us with the best care possible in this IVF journey of ours.
Unfortunately there is no guarantee with IVF that you’ll end up pregnant. Or even pregnant without any risks. Miscarriage can happen to anyone – there is only a slightly greater risk to those undergoing IVF.
The whole IVF process has definitely made me closer to my husband (if that’s even possible), stronger as a person, and better as a mother.
IVF and miscarriage does not have to be a stigma that you silently face alone. I am here to bring miscarriage awareness and support to you.
Lots of faith, hope, and love is what got me through it. I pray it is the same for you. Feel free to share in the comments below what helped you heal from your miscarriage.