In a culture where birth and death are seldom spoken of openly, the loss of an unborn baby can be a lonely experience. If the loss occurred early in the pregnancy, before anyone knew you were pregnant, it can seem an invisible sorrow. Yet miscarriage is common, an experience which most women experience at some point during their child–bearing years. When facing imminent miscarriage, it’s only natural to wonder, what can I expect physically? How can I heal afterwards? How can I support my friend going through this? Like all births, miscarriage likewise affects fathers, who may feel at a loss to know how to care for the mother during and after the loss. Kathryn Miller Ridiman wrote in Midwifery Today, “Miscarriages are labour; miscarriages are birth. To consider them less dishonours the woman whose womb has held life, however briefly. The physical pain from miscarriage can be as intense as that of a full–term birth.” (1) To acknowledge the significance of losing a baby, at whatever stage of pregnancy, paves the way to acknowledge the needs women have at this time so that physical and emotional healing can begin. For some women, miscarriage involves about as much bleeding and discomfort as an uncomfortable period. For others, there are actual contractions, fatigue afterwards, and after–pains during the following days as the uterus involutes – similar to a full–term birth. The amount of bleeding also varies from woman to woman. Usually bleeding continues for 8–10 days but for some women, it’s longer. Looking after yourself, or supporting another through this, involves similar practical care and loving empathy to supporting any birth. Hydration drinks, nourishing food, a warm shower or bath, heat packs, massage, changes of position, and practical help with other children and around the home while she rests, will all help a woman feel cared for, and not alone. Let her cry and shout when she needs to, hold her when she needs a hug, give her space when she needs solitude. The body seems to echo the bereft feeling of mourning an empty womb and empty heart. You may feel weak, pale and drained of energy. The mind–body connection is strong around the times of conception, birth, breastfeeding – and likewise, during pregnancy loss. The gradual healing process as your body recovers physically, your iron and nutritional stores are replenished, and your cycles normalise, are Nature’s way to give you time to heal in mind and soul. Some people react by wanting to get pregnant again as soon as possible. Others feel a sense of guilt, that they must have done something ‘wrong’ to cause the miscarriage. One woman shared, “For a while there I hated my body. I felt it had failed me. I wanted to deprive it of rest and food, to punish myself.” Such feelings are not uncommon. It helps to talk things through with other women who’ve been through it – and find you’re not alone. Taking the time to let your body heal, and nurturing yourself in body and soul, is part of the letting go. Tune into your body’s needs for extra rest, nutrition and comfort. Sometimes you may need understanding friends around you – who won’t tip–toe around words like ‘miscarriage’ or ‘stillbirth’ – other times you might want to walk alone close to nature. I felt a yearning to swim in the ocean. Planting flowers or a special tree as a memorial to the little soul whose spirit has flown, may be a comforting ritual. If you had a lot of bleeding, your iron stores could be low. An iron supplement such as Spatone, Chlorophyll, Floradix or Spirulina can help re–build iron stores. Nourish your body with healthy, whole foods to build up your strength. You may wish to see a Naturopath to check whether you are lacking in any nutrients, which is important for your healing now and for preparing to conceive again later. It takes times for your hormones to re–balance after a pregnancy ends. Hormonal balance is also important for healthy conception and reducing the risk of miscarriage in the future. Naturopath Barbara O’Neill offers advice for optimising hormonal balance and health in her DVD, “The Dance of the Hormones”. Barbara recommends common–sense measures such as daily walks in the open air and sunlight, a routine of early nights, drinking plenty of water, a diet rich in raw fruit and vegetables, avoiding strong cleaning and cosmetic chemicals and minimising contact with phyto–oestrogens present in many plastics. (2) A herbal tea can provide comfort and physical support for your healing mind and body. Oregano and Alfalfa are rich in many nutrients and minerals. Nettle is also rich in nutrients, combats anaemia and builds up the blood. Red Clover is rich in iron and improves haemoglobin and platelet levels. Ginger is a warming herb that soothes cramps. Lady’s Mantle and Red Raspberry Leaf are tonics for the uterus. Oat Straw and Lemon Balm are calming, balancing herbs; Lavender supports grief. These make a delicious, comforting cup of tea for the recovering woman. A herbal bath of Yarrow, Sage, Oregano and Nettle soothes uterine cramps and aching muscles. Your muscles may be tense from holding on, from trying to stop it from happening. But now is the time for letting go. These herbal remedies, and a healing massage, can loosen the tight muscles and support you to let go so the uterus can cleanse. In our culture, we do not often realise the need to keep the kidneys and pelvis warm. This may be a time you become aware of a need to feel ‘held’ around your womb and hips. You could knit or crochet a warm skirt, or use a rebozo or shawl to wrap about your body. It also makes a thoughtful gift to send someone you care about, when you can’t be there in person to hold them in your arms. Caring for your body, or your loved one’s body, following the loss of a baby, can be a powerful way to release the myriad emotions that are part of this bittersweet journey. It takes courage to not rush the healing process or minimise its significance, but to dwell in the valley for a while, feel your capacity to love, and with it, your capacity to grieve well. 1. Kathryn Miller Ridiman, “Supporting a Mother Whose Pregnancy Has Ended” Midwifery Today, Issue 41, Spring 1997 2. Barbara O’Neill, “The Dance of the Hormones”