Bye-bye baby
October 3, 2006 10:05 AM   Subscribe

How long will it take for my body to return to normal after a miscarriage? How about my mind?

After half a year of artificial insem I got pregnant and then miscarried 6 weeks later. I had spotting 4 nights in a row (only at night, not much blood) but then the doc found that my HCG was dropping, not rising... so the embryo is dead. No bleeding since Sunday, though, and no cramps.

I don't feel like I lost a baby, but I feel wierd and no one really understands. I can't concentrate at school, I have no motivation to read or go to class, but I feel like I'm using my miscarriage as an excuse (hell, I was barely even pregnant). Am I overreacting to be grieving for a 6 week old embryo?

I want my body to slough the dead cells, my boobs to go back to normal, and my heartburn to stop so that I don't 'feel' pregnant anymore. I imagine that all that won't happen until my HCG is down, and currently it's at about 11000. How long until my pregnancy symptoms go away? When will I start bleeding and shed the embryo? When will I have my first period? How soon after a miscarriage can I try again?

I know these are questions for my doctor, but my doctor is uncomfortable with the fact that I'm gay and won't really talk to me. I'm looking for another doc, but until then AskMe is what I've got.

Not posted anonymously because I am NOT ashamed of miscarrying. It is a normal occurrence and I am a normal woman.
posted by arcticwoman to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Am I overreacting to be grieving for a 6 week old embryo?

No. I am sorry this happened to you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:10 AM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Articwoman, I'm so sorry. You're not overreacting -- your body has just been through a big upheaval in a very short amount of time, and so too has your mind and heart. (I'm sorry I don't have any specific answers regarding your other questions.)
posted by scody at 10:19 AM on October 3, 2006

No, you're not overreacting, I'm so very sorry for your loss.
posted by ceri richard at 10:21 AM on October 3, 2006

My condolences.

Miscarriage is quite common but it means different things to different people. Your grief is natural to you and is not by any means "overreacting." You should see a therapist to help you work through the feelings you are having, nonetheless. The health of yoru mind, body and relationships depend on it.

In regard to your doctor, it is imperative that you find a health care provider you can actually talk to. I recommend seeing a Nurse Practitioner rather than an MD. NPs tend to be a bit more progressive in their thinking and are generally more "human" than your typical doctor. Also, I suspect there are more NPs who are openly gay than there are "out" doctors, so you may be able to find someone who relates to you better.
posted by mds35 at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2006

Response by poster: How would I find an NP? I'm in Canada and have never heard of them.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:46 AM on October 3, 2006

I'm so sorry this happened.

According to this resource:

Looks like a month or 2 till the hormones are out of your system, and I bet the hormones are responsible for a lot of how you are feeling.

For what it's worth - this is unfortunately a very normal experience. As I'm sure you know. Medically, a woman who's had 1 miscarriage isn't even considered at increased risk to miscarry again compared to a woman who's never had one. It's that common. That doesn't make it any less emotional tho.

Medline Plus is a really good starting point for reliable info until you get a doc you like, btw:
posted by selfmedicating at 10:48 AM on October 3, 2006

My wife and I have been through this three times. I'm sorry for your loss.

HCG is only on of dozens of hormones and some take much longer to return to non-pregnant levels. For my wife it was about three months, but the sorrow continued longer. In fact, it never completely goes away, just gets longer between.

You may have discharged the dead embryo (my fingers hurt typing this; I wish I had a kinder way of stating this) without knowing it. The return of normal cycling won't happen until the hormone levels return to pre-pregnancy levels and then may be three or more months beyond that.

When we last faced this, the OB/GYN said to try not to get pregnant for six months stating both physiological and emotional reasons.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:52 AM on October 3, 2006

I'm so sorry, articwoman. It's kind of a general statement, but I've found that in general, people want you to "get over" grief as quickly as possible, regardless of whether doing so is healthy. With all that pressure, wondering if you're grieving too long or whether you should be over it by now is normal; don't let those worries make you feel like you're weak or oversensitive or in any way abnormal.
posted by occhiblu at 11:10 AM on October 3, 2006

Sorry to hear of your loss. ((soft.hugs))

Am I overreacting to be grieving for a 6 week old embryo?

No. You had hopes and dreams and a plan for this pregnancy the future life you would have. Grieving is normal, okay, and sucks.

my doctor is uncomfortable with the fact that I'm gay and won't really talk to me.

It sucks that your doctor is lame in this respect. My mom is a lesbian so I grew up in the lesbian community and I have lots of friends that have dealt with crap because of this. Sorry that I don't have any recommendations in Lethbridge, but I do understand what a pain in the ass this is. Does Lethbridge have anything resembling a Gay & Lesbian Resource Centre? Perhaps they could reccommend docs that are more gay-friendly.

How would I find an NP? I'm in Canada and have never heard of them.

I'm also in Canada, not too far away actually. I've found a Nurse Practitioner at the local community clinic so try there.
posted by raedyn at 11:14 AM on October 3, 2006

That's a really crappy thing. I'm so sorry.

I don't know a lot about the numbers/timelines, but from a psychological standpoint, know that you're definitely not overreacting. A miscarriage is a volatile, significant change for your body, and your hormones can throw you into a wild array of emotional states, potentially. This is very much about your physiological state, and not about you "being crazy" or somesuch.

I would say seek therapy if the emotions seem to get the better of you, or look to your friends and loved ones for support, if you have that available; it's really about "riding out the storm." Whatever you do, just be sure to keep an eye on your emotional state, and remember that it's a natural "grieving" process of your body; there's nothing wrong with you beyond that.

my fingers hurt typing this

Ditto. I hope that your recovery process is as painless as possible.
posted by Brak at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2006

arcticwoman, you are not overreacting. I had the same thing happen to me last month - 3+ years of infertility, 3rd IUI, miscarried at 5 weeks. I cried when I found out my beta number was low, but when I started bleeding the next day, I became angry. It was like a normal period for me, but I walked around day-to-day thinking, "I'm bleeding, and it's my baby that's coming out of me." I felt like I had gotten so close to something I've wanted so badly, only to have it yanked away from me. Sometimes I wanted to scream it out loud; sometimes I thought maybe I had.

Because I miscarried so early, my doctor thought it would be okay for me to do another cycle of Clomid/IUI immediately. I'm not far enough along to test yet. It helps me to read supportive forums - I like the ones at (the charting software that I use).
posted by candyland at 11:39 AM on October 3, 2006

My deep sympathy. No, you're not overreacting at all. The "feeling weird" has a hormonal component for sure, but it is a loss - a potential gone - I am sure the active work towards it (half a year of artificial insem.) is also an aspect of your grief.

It's hard. I'm so sorry. It's awful to still feel pregnant knowing you have already lost the pregnancy. It will take a little while for all the traces (hormonal, physical) to go away. In my case it took about a month, and I got my period after a month too.

You may have already shed the embryo in the spotting. 6 weeks is pretty tiny. I would assume you can try again after you 1) get your period back and 2) your doctor checks you over and gives you an all-clear. Usually they say to wait at least one complete cycle. The doctor will need to make sure that you have shed everything, although at the early stages I think they check this by hormone levels. In my case I got a go-ahead in about two and a half months.

It is a normal occurrance but not often discussed. You may be surprised (as I was) how many people offering sympathy have been through it themselves. (It did very much help to talk it out with other women who had similar experiences.) It is hard to understand if you haven't been through it and so you may feel some pressure to "just get over it" (especially because it happened in the first term), but please don't feel like you are making excuses, at all.

Mentally I've been told "The hurt doesn't go away but the pain fades some after a while". Time helps. I am finding the upcoming would-have-been due date is making the pain more fresh. But I was able to cope with it fairly quickly after it happened, enough to be pragmatic about it most of the time. It did hit hard in random moments, and I would get emotionally socked, and cry; and I felt out-of-it overall for good chunks of time. This is normal I am sure.

I found reading about it (Pregnancy After Miscarriage, infertility blogs such as So Close, A Little Pregnant, and So I Wasted All That Birth Control) had helped me in getting through. My email's in my profile if you would like someone to talk to, also. Best of luck.
posted by Melinika at 11:42 AM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry that you're going through this. I had a miscarriage in May and was blown away by the flood of feelings I experienced. I also wasn't very far along but when you've been trying, the second you find out you're actually finally pregnant, all those hopes and dreams seem to come true.

It's hard to say how long it will take for everything to go away. I had been spotting for over a month then bled heavily for five days. A friend of mine just had a miscarriage and bled for a couple of days but not in great quantity. Within a month, I had a reasonably normal period.

The hormones were quite a shock. I found that the "baby brain" continued for several weeks, lessening a little ever week but still an annoying reminder of what happened. I know my friend is experience similar feelings. Give yourself six to eight weeks and you should be feeling more like yourself again.

Do not feel guilty for your grief. You wanted this baby and for six weeks, you lived with the reality of it. On top of that, you're experiencing some crazy-ass hormones coursing through your veins. Take a little time to heal.
Feel free to email me.
posted by wallaby at 12:02 PM on October 3, 2006

We just lost a baby at 10 weeks...2 weeks ago, so I know what you're going through. My wife kept bleeding, however, and had to be rushed to the ER, where they eventually took her into the operating room for a D&C. They determined that part of the placenta was still attached, and still allowing blood to enter her uterus. So, basically, we lost our baby, and I nearly lost my wife and the mother of my children.

We're still getting over it. It's hard to walk near a baby section in a store, can't watch babies on TV, etc. My boys had a tough time with it as well, but their teachers were all well informed as my wife is the president of the PTO.

As far as getting her old body back, she still has trouble lifting things over 10-15lbs. She has good and bad pain days, but has managed (for the most part) to stay off the pain meds the hospital gave her. She's seeing our family physician tomorrow for a checkup, and expects that she'll be back to original form by next week some time.

We're lucky, I think, in that we've been able to keep 3 out of the 7 pregnancies through which we've been. We take solace in our children and the people around us that love us. When you talk to friends and relatives, make sure to communicate how you're feeling -- you'll be surprised how generous people can be with their affection when grief and loss is involved.
posted by thanotopsis at 12:06 PM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Adding to the chorus, no you are not overreacting. I am so sorry. I don't think anybody can tell you when the actual process of the miscarriage will end, as there is so much individual variation. If it is too much for you to wait for the process to complete naturally, ask for an ultrasound to see if there is a yolk sac. If there is still a yolk sac, ask for a D&C. I don't know why your doctor did not offer these procedures.

Standard medical advice is to wait three months before trying again. Personally, I think that is bunk, and you are good to go after you get your first post-miscarriage period. However, if you are relying on the medical establishment to assist with your conception, you will be stuck with their protocols and waiting periods. Unless you are older, they may ask you to wait.

I felt like a walking zombie for a couple of weeks after my miscarriage. I cried on my way to work. I was mostly ok after that, but I had some bad episodes (especially around key milestones - period arriving, key ultrasounds and genetic tests in subsequent pregnancy, due date, etc). Take care of yourself. Personally, I will not feel like I have completed the process of grieving my miscarriage until I am holding a live and healthy baby. It takes a long time to heal.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:08 PM on October 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

As for your questions about the purely physical issues (yes, this is a guy's response), here's an expert who seems reasonably upbeat: Pregnancy symptoms could be gone within a few days; bleeding should stop over one to two weeks; but, of course, emotional recovery will be longer ("While some women are relieved to return to work for the distraction it provides, many others feel that they cannot face work soon after a loss."). For trying again: "We generally recommend three months, or two menstrual periods, before trying again to conceive. This is not because of added complications if you conceive quickly. Unless you lost a lot of blood at your miscarriage, there aren't any. Rather, the reason for waiting is to allow heart and soul to mend a bit. . . ." With genuine respect and sympathy to all involved, your situation (knock wood) is not medically comparable to women who have struggled with infertility or miscarried repeatedly. And what occhiblu said.
posted by Dave 9 at 12:22 PM on October 3, 2006

Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. Of course what you're feeling is perfectly normal, both from a hormonal and psychological standpoint. It's probably acerbated by the fact that you've been trying so hard to get pregnant.

I don't have any medical advice to offer. I know when I miscarried, I grieved for a very long time. I probably should have gotten therapy. Not that I'm saying you need therapy...I'm just saying that sometimes the feeling of loss is hard to explain, and so we quit trying.

I dunno, if it were me, I might curl up with chick flicks and get my cry on. But I'm like that when I'm hormonal. All weepy and stuff. You may feel better if you go take a run, or a workout at the gym to get your endorphins up.

I am sorry, and wish you the best in your quest.
posted by dejah420 at 1:03 PM on October 3, 2006

No, you're not overreacting, you're grieving for the loss of your unborn child and all that entails. No one can decide for you how long you grieve. Also, your hormone levels, as many have said above, are readjusting to non-pregnant levels and that, infortunately, takes as long as it takes. I'm very sorry for your loss and I pray for the restoration of your inner peace; may it come soon.
posted by Lynsey at 2:48 PM on October 3, 2006

I have no useful advice or info, just wanted to tell you how sorry for your loss I am (and extend the condolences to the thanotopsis family too). Give yourself as much time as you need to cry and stay in bed all day, don't worry that you are making too big a deal of it. {{another gentle hug}}.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:27 PM on October 3, 2006

re: how long will it take?

In this study "[hCG levels were detectable] in cases of spontaneous abortion from nine to 35 days with a median of 19 days." Sorry it's a crummy example; it's an old study and the sample size is tiny. But yeah, it might just take a little over a week for the hCG to drop, or it might take longer. But for now stay in the loop with your doc, crappy or not; if your hCG is still elevated after a month, he/she may want to intervene (D&C) and/or make sure there's not some other underlying problem. That sucks that you had to put up with a his/her personal hangups when your doctor visits should be about YOU & your frickin' health, for pete's sake.

Also: This study and this study point out that the higher your initial hCG levels are, the quicker the rate of decline.

Like you said, miscarriage is actually a really normal, common occurence, especially the first time you conceive. Other conceiving women go through it all the time (25% of pregnancies don't last past week six!), and their bodies recover. It's okay to grieve and feel like shit for as long as you need to get over it; just don't lose sight of the fact that physically, this too shall pass. (re: emotional health, see answers above). Be gentle with yourself, and take care.
posted by neda at 10:31 PM on October 3, 2006

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