Anxiety After a Miscarriage Is Totally Normal

If you’ve recently suffered a pregnancy loss and you’re feeling anxious, you’re not alone – almost 20% of women develop depression or anxiety after a miscarriage. But despite how common it is, it can feel really lonely.

People may expect you to be sad, but they often can’t understand why you might feel anxious. Worse, many people respond to news of a miscarriage by asking when you’ll try again, as if your lost pregnancy can simply be replaced by a new one. These people mean well; they just want you to feel hopeful again. But unless they’ve been through it they can’t know how terrifying it feels to start back down the path that led, last time, to devastation.

It’s totally normal to have anxiety after a miscarriage, whether you’re trying to conceive again or not – it’s also completely normal to feel severe anxiety during any future pregnancy you might have. When we’re pregnant, we’re solely responsible for our baby’s health and safety, but ultimately we don’t control either one. This is called the responsibility/control paradox and it’s a perfect recipe for anxiety. Prior experience of loss is the icing on the cake.

Why anxiety after miscarriage is so common

In addition to the responsibility/control paradox, there’s the fact that miscarriages, late-term terminations, and stillbirths often involve unexpected medical complications and intrusive interventions, both of which can cause anxiety even outside pregnancy. 

In the case of pregnancy loss, medical anxiety is often compounded with deep grief and sadness at the loss of a future child – one that might have been planned for and tried for many times over. This combination of extreme worry and sadness can easily lead to an anxiety disorder.

In fact, even after a future successful pregnancy and birth, a mother’s chances of suffering from postpartum anxiety increase if she has a history of pregnancy loss.

How to know if you’re at risk for an anxiety disorder

It’s important to note the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Some anxiety or worry is a natural part of everyday life, but for people with an anxiety disorder their heightened emotional state can last for days, weeks, or years – or even be a constant throughout their lives.

When it comes to anxiety that’s brought on by an event, like a loss, the usual rule of thumb is to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if your symptoms last for more than two weeks after the inciting event.

Symptoms of an anxiety disorder

There are a few different kinds of anxiety disorder, but some of the common symptoms to look out for include:

  • Recurrent or constant worries or fears
  • Muscle tension
  • Racing heart or fast pulse
  • Persistent feeling of being on-edge or restless
  • Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, and especially if they’re causing you impairment or distress, or interfering with your daily life, you should talk to your doctor.

Tips for coping with anxiety after pregnancy loss

The best way to manage anxiety after a miscarriage is to see a trained mental health provider who can guide you through processing your feelings and teach you the right coping mechanisms for your specific situation and personality. But in the meantime, here are some things you can try on your own to cope with your anxiety:

  • Set aside a specific time for worries. Rather than trying to avoid feeling anxious altogether (which usually only makes us more anxious), set aside “worry time” every day to give your feelings space without letting them overrun your life.
  • Talk to someone about it. Whether it’s a friend, a partner, or a family member, sit down  with someone you trust to listen lovingly and talk through your experience, being as open about your emotions as you can.
  • Limit your Googling. There’s nothing wrong with seeking information, but make sure you’re not falling down the rabbit hole and making your anxiety worse. Limit yourself to five minutes a day with reliable online sources such as the Mayo Clinic or the National Institute of Mental Health. If you’re pregnant, try not to Google any sensations or potential symptoms of things going wrong. Take those to your doctor instead – they know your specific circumstances so they’re better equipped to help. 
    • Limit your social media exposure, too. Social media algorithms are designed to show you whatever will be most compelling – when you’re pregnant or anxious about anything, that means you’re likely to be pushed content that deals with whatever you’re most afraid of. If you’re finding that scrolling your feed is triggering negative emotions, it might be time to take a break from the apps.

If you’ve suffered a loss and are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, we can help. At Prospera, our mental health coaches are trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques, which are super effective for managing anxiety. 

If you could use some support (and who couldn’t?), why not give us a try? Book your free consultation today.

Content reviewed by Dr. Sarah Stanger, Clinical Psychologist

Anne Godenham is a writer and editor with a passion for mental health awareness and accessibility