Depression After Miscarriage: Coping With Loss

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated July 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Some individuals may believe that miscarriage is uncommon or rare. They might not hear about it or don’t understand how it can happen to many people. However, studies show that up to 26% of pregnancies may end in miscarriage.

When a person loses a pregnancy, they may go through a period of grief or sadness. They may also experience an increased risk for situational depression. Depression is often treatable with emotional support and the assistance of health care providers to address the depressive and anxiety symptoms that some women experience. Understanding the symptoms of depression can be beneficial in knowing when to seek help for psychological distress. 

What can post-miscarriage depression look like?

Depression often has a particular set of symptoms, depending on the type. These symptoms may present differently for people after pregnancy loss.

Depression after a miscarriage may happen regardless of whether the pregnancy was expected. Additionally, you may experience depression if your miscarriage was traumatic or scary for you. 

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Are you experiencing depression after a loss?

Commonly reported symptoms of depression can include the following: 

  • A depressed mood
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Feeling hopeless 

In post-miscarriage depression, you might experience feelings of inadequacy, grief for losing what could have been, or persistent thoughts about your miscarriage. For most women, prenatal loss does not affect one's future pregnancies, but it can still pose significant psychological distress to those who experience it. Postpartum depression, which is a type of depression that occurs after giving birth is also something to be aware of, since it can affect up to 15% of mothers.

Consider meeting with a qualified mental health professional if you aren’t sure whether you have depression or are ready to seek treatment for depressive symptoms.

A depressed mood

A depressed mood may mean prolonged or consistent feelings of sadness. It can be natural to feel sad after losing a pregnancy. You may have bonded with your child-to-be, regardless of how early you lost them.  

Your hopes for the future may begin to arise as soon as you know you’re pregnant. These hopes may have been dashed, and you might feel an overwhelming burden of sadness. You may cry frequently or consistently. 

Those who experienced the miscarriage of an unexpected pregnancy may still experience depression, feelings of shame, or other mood-related symptoms, such as anxiety symptoms. 

Loss of pleasure or interest

A common symptom of depression is a loss of pleasure, also called anhedonia. Activities that once made you feel joyful may not have that effect anymore. If you get a promotion at work, you might not feel the pleasure of success. The joy of spending time with friends may elude you. You might stop engaging in activities you used to enjoy or avoid social situations you once found pleasurable. You could feel that your depression has taken the excitement or color out of your life. 

Trouble sleeping

If you experience sleep troubles, this can be a common sign of depression. You may have trouble going to sleep or staying asleep. Or you may find yourself sleeping much more than usual. 

At first, sleep problems may be due to potential physical changes in your body. However, if sleep problems continue on top of other symptoms, they may be due to depression.

Concentration problems

If you have trouble concentrating on the daily events that are going on in your life now, it could be a sign of depression. You may have trouble completing tasks that require you to focus. Or you might struggle to notice details, often feeling distracted or disconnected from your life.

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Appetite changes

Your appetite may change due to depression. You may have intense cravings and feel like eating more than usual. Or you may feel that nothing tastes good anymore. You could completely lose interest in food or mealtimes.

Grief after a miscarriage

Grief is not the same thing as depression. Grief is a natural process that may allow you to come to terms with a loss and prepare yourself for the next phase in your life. However, depression can be a symptom of grief and is often listed as one of the grieving stages. 

Others in your life, such as family members and friends, may not understand why or how you need to grieve after a miscarriage. However, grief can happen for a multitude of reasons. If you feel that you’ve lost someone essential to you, grief may come, whether others believe it should or not. You may also feel that you’re grieving a life that could’ve been. 

After a miscarriage, you might feel: 

  • Disbelief
  • Numbness
  • Shock
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Sadness

The grieving process can look different for everyone. It may take longer for some than others. Different factors may influence the severity of each person's experience. 

A prior history of recurrent miscarriage can be quite traumatic and increase the risk of clinical depression, especially if depression and anxiety followed those losses. Moreover, previous prenatal loss may make one more susceptible to postpartum depression and major depression, so it's important to seek healthy ways to address one's mental state. 

Try to recognize your feelings and accept them as a part of what you’re going through.

Shock and denial

After learning of your miscarriage, it may feel difficult for you to believe that you’re no longer pregnant. You may question whether your doctor was right in saying that you miscarried. This denial could go on for a few days, but in other cases, you might experience it for much longer. 

You may also experience shock and want to stay in bed all day or have trouble interacting with or noticing stimuli in your immediate environment. 

Flooding emotional responses 

You may feel conflicting emotions in the weeks, months, or years after your loss. These emotions may be somewhat due to hormonal changes that could happen to you after the miscarriage and for several months afterward. These hormonal changes can intensify your emotions. 

You may also experience emotional flooding due to grief, trauma, or feeling depressed after your miscarriage. A non-pregnant partner may also experience post-miscarriage grief or depression. 

Feelings of guilt

Feelings of guilt often come up for people who have miscarried. You may blame yourself, thinking it is your fault or that you could’ve prevented it. However, miscarriages may happen for various reasons, and you are not at fault for your experience. Feeling excessive guilt can be a symptom of depression, as well. 

Anger or a feeling that life is unfair

Anger is often a part of the grieving process for many people after a miscarriage, and you may see a lot of potential targets for your anger. You might be angry at yourself, your partner, or your doctor. 

You may feel that someone should have done something to prevent this. Or you might be angry with people when they aren’t compassionate enough or don’t know the right way to console you. Your anger may even expand to your religion or spiritual beliefs. Life may feel cruel or unfair.

Accepting the loss

There may come a time when you feel you can accept that a loss happened. Acceptance is often listed as the final stage of grief. However, acceptance doesn’t mean you’ll forget about the miscarriage or the child you were expecting. It may not mean you’ll never have moments of sadness about it again. 

However, acceptance often means you’re aware that despite the loss, your life may go on, and you may be able to regain a sense of normalcy. You might feel that it’s okay to concentrate on other things, feel moments of joy, and live in a way that fits your new circumstances, all without forgetting the loss in your life.

How to care for yourself with post-miscarriage depression

After a miscarriage, you may feel helpless or hopeless and experience symptoms of depression. However, there are steps you can take for yourself. Below are some ways to overcome depression after miscarriage.

Allow yourself to grieve 

First, allow yourself to grieve. Even if others invalidate your grief or do not understand it, caring for your emotions can be beneficial for you. 

Talk to friends and family

Second, talk to close friends or relatives about what you’re feeling and going through. Get support from the people in your life who are compassionate, understanding, and helpful.

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Are you experiencing depression after a loss?

Seek out a support group

Social support is linked with decreasing psychological morbidity. Support groups for women who experience mental health problems following miscarriage in one or subsequent pregnancies may help reduce anxiety, depression, and other symptoms of mental illness. Support from a group of people who share the experience of loss have a unique role, one that family members and others may be less equipped to provide at times. 

Care for your physical health 

Try to care for your physical health, even if you don’t want to. Depression may worsen if you don’t get adequate sleep or care for your body. 

Thinking of healthy habits after what you’ve been through may feel challenging. However, physical health has a proven connection with mental health and wellness. 

Ways a therapist can help you

Many people who have miscarried benefit from talking to a therapist. Your counselor may provide solid emotional support by listening non-judgmentally and giving you opportunities to talk about things that might be uncomfortable to talk about with others. They can help you allow yourself to grieve in your own unique ways.

Your therapist may also provide psychoeducation, teaching you about issues you’re going through, including grief and depression. You may learn things you never knew before about miscarriage, depression, and taking care of your mental health. Also, they can identify risk factors for developing depression and provide you with strategies to take care of your mental and physical well-being on a daily basis.

Get support now 

Seeking mental health support can be a beneficial first step in finding support and healing from depression. Depression can make you feel hopeless about your situation and life in general. You may not have the energy to get out of bed or participate in activities you once enjoyed. 

Figuring out how to attend therapy may feel stressful, or you might not want to drive to an appointment. Online therapy can allow you to get care from the safety and comfort of your home. You might attend sessions from your bed, making it easier and more convenient to get care when you need it most. Through an online mental health platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist to guide you through difficult emotions or symptoms. 

One study on online therapy looked at parents who were experiencing prolonged grief after losing a child during pregnancy. The results showed that an internet-based intervention was a “feasible and cost-effective treatment” and reduced symptoms of “post-traumatic stress, grief, depression, anxiety, and general mental health after pregnancy loss.”

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Julia (Jurate) Mcgarry, LMHC
I have been struggling with mental health and anxiety after a miscarriage and Julia has helped me so much. She is so understanding and caring… She gives me the tools to help me cope and deal with exactly what I'm going through. I look forward to our sessions every week because I know we will dig deeper and I will leave with new knowledge of how to help myself. I have implemented the tools she has given me and I’m starting to feel so much better.”

Takeaway

Experiencing a miscarriage can be difficult, whether you’re losing a wanted or unwanted pregnancy. You may experience sadness, grief, depression, and other symptoms. Additionally, you may find that the miscarriage was traumatic or scary.

Recognizing when you need help can be a vital first step, as can reaching out for support when things feel too challenging to handle alone. Consider contacting a therapist if you’re ready to reach out for support. 

Depression is treatable, and you're not alone
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