Is It Possible To Get Postpartum Depression After a Miscarriage?
When a woman has a miscarriage, often times we don't warn her of what comes after the physical experience of loss–we warn pregnant women who deliver a full-term baby about the hormone changes they can expect, the way her clothes will fit differently, how her body will feel different in almost every single way, and all of the symptoms of postpartum depression she should look for.
But when a woman has a miscarriage?
There is silence.
We don't always warn the mother who has a miscarriage that she will experience very real physical and emotional effects in the aftermath of her loss. Many times, a mother might not even see a doctor at all during her miscarriage, beginning and ending the process at home and wondering if anything she is experiencing is remotely normal. She will go through her experience alone, quietly discarding of the proof that she was once pregnant, neatly tucking away the hopes and dreams she had for the future, wiping her tears away and trying her best to keep going.
No one talks about postpartum depression after a miscarriage, but the truth is, it can happen.
It is possible for postpartum depression to develop after a miscarriage, because no one truly knows what the cause of postpartum depression is in the first place. Some experts believe that postpartum depression is actually pre-existing depression or another form of mental illness that is made worse and visible thanks to the stressors of new motherhood while others theorize that the huge and sudden hormonal changes trigger the depression to happen.
I remember thinking that one of the cruelest parts of my miscarriage was the fact that I still felt pregnant, even after I had found out that the pregnancy was not viable. I had miscarriages where the pregnancies continued even though the embryo was no longer there, so all of my pregnancy symptoms continued.
I had all of the hormones of pregnancy still being produced and it took weeks before they finally left my body. I was bleeding, a hormonal, emotional mess, and my stomach was even sagging after growing to accommodate a 10-week-old baby (it would have been my 5th, so things got out of control quickly!). For all intents and purposes, I was a postpartum mother, but no one describes miscarriage to you that way. No one warns you how swift and suddenly those hormonal changes can affect you and how it leaves you reeling, not sure how to feel or even who you are anymore.
For me, the immediate, soul-crushing, cry-every-other-second grief of miscarriage both times lasted several weeks. I wore sunglasses to my kids' school pick-up because I just couldn't stop crying, I locked myself in my bedroom whenever possible, and I comforted myself with stories of other mothers who felt the same way. I was locked in grief, but eventually, that fog did lift and I was able to get through the day without bursting into random tears.
So how do you know if what you are feeling after a miscarriage is related to grief or something that has manifested into more clinical depression? One of the best things you can do is communicate with a partner or loved one, or a healthcare provider that you trust who can help guide you through your grief journey. Grief is very different and personal for every single person and there is no one right “time” that you should “be over” your miscarriage–I myself have had two miscarriages, with the first one happening almost three years ago and there are days that it still brings me to tears. A loss never truly leaves you.
But if your symptoms after a loss are truly debilitating to the point that you are unable to function in your day-to-day life even months after your miscarriage, it is a good idea to speak to a professional who can help you work through your symptoms. Whether your symptoms are related to grief or a clinical manifestation of postpartum depression, working with a mental health care professional can help you in ways that can be life-changing. Just like you go to the doctor for help when you are physically ill, we need to turn to mental health care providers when we are mentally and emotionally ill.
Loss in the form of a miscarriage is very difficult because no two women will feel the same way about it, have the same experience, or cope with it in the same way, so it truly is a very personal journey. If you feel you might have lingering symptoms of postpartum depression as a result of your miscarriage, please speak to your doctor and get help.