When a child dies after the 22nd week of pregnancy or even after a week of life, it is said that it is a perinatal death. Dealing with perinatal grief is an intense and difficult process.
Perinatal grief is what happens when a baby dies before or a few days after birth. It is an intense pain that comes as a surprise to the woman, the man, and the family.
The pregnant woman has decided to keep the baby, has been involved in the process, and is eagerly waiting for the day when she will finally become a mother. But for various reasons, the baby goes away and leaves everyone with broken hearts.
The woman, partner, and family must then undergo perinatal grief. Just like when you lose other loved ones, and the emotional imprint is left, along with the pain of not getting to know the baby.
When pregnancy becomes a sad statistic
Finding out that you are finally pregnant is a real energy boost. You are immediately overwhelmed by feelings, desires, and expectations. But you must go through the first trimester to ensure that there are no major risks.
Miscarriages usually occur before the 12th or 13th week of pregnancy. Although they cause incredibly strong emotional anguish for women, it does not technically count as perinatal grief.
This pain is called perinatal because the baby passes away during the perinatal period. It runs from the 22nd week of pregnancy to one week after birth.
Perinatal grief occurs in silence
In addition to the intense pain of losing a child you have been waiting for, social and work environments often do not acknowledge the perinatal grief that parents go through. Therefore, the acceptance and healing process is often slower and more complex.
Several factors can strengthen the feelings of women who have lost their babies:
- Miscarriages or previous perinatal deaths that have not been treated properly.
- The time it took to finally get pregnant.
- The age of the woman, because over time you feel higher pressure to get pregnant.
- Feelings of attachment you had, especially if the baby was already born.
- Lack of social support. Hospitals and other facilities do not always provide the required support.
- The absence of the father.
- Inability to share experiences and memories with family and to baptize the baby and say goodbye.
Phases of perinatal grief
Perinatal grief can be for days, weeks, months, or even years. It will all depend on the woman’s temperament and the circumstances surrounding the baby’s death.
Like all types of grief, it comes in several stages.
The denial phase
At this stage, it is difficult to believe that the perinatal death has occurred. The woman’s mind was not prepared to receive the shocking news.
This state of shock and misunderstanding is the mind trying to process the overwhelming reality a little at a time.
The phase of anger
This happens when mothers feel upset and/or guilty about what has happened. They feel angry with themselves, their partners, and even the doctors who were in contact with the baby.
If the woman is religious, she may be upset with a god because she does not understand how this could affect her. It is also common to be jealous of couples who have had pregnancies without complications and who are allowed to be with their children.
The negotiation phase
This phase begins when the debt becomes confused. “If I had done this or that” is common among parents affected by this loss.
They ask themselves over and over again what would or could have happened if instead of doing one thing or another they had done something else. They also imagine how nice it would have been to have the baby.
The depression phase
The negotiation phase turns into depression. Faced with the irreversible reality of perinatal grief, emotions or symptoms may appear, such as sadness, reluctance, sleep problems, or loss of appetite.
There is also anxiety about getting pregnant again. Many women are afraid that the same thing will happen again.
The acceptance phase
This is the last phase of perinatal grief. It is then that you accept that you must continue to live despite having suffered a loss.
Slowly but surely, the woman will return to her daily routine. However, it can take time to find out if you are trying to have another baby.
Tips for overcoming perinatal grief
If you have experienced the loss of a baby, you know that you have every right to undergo perinatal grief. It is necessary so that you can cry, accept, and heal the wound left by the fact that your pregnancy did not have a happy ending.
To live and get over the different phases of grief, here are some recommendations:
- Your doctor must give you a detailed description of the medical problems that led to the loss. Furthermore, he must tell you about the consequences of future pregnancies.
- Do not stop yourself from talking about and naming your baby in front of partners, relatives, friends, and co-workers. To get through the pain, you must not forget the baby you lost.
- Furthermore, you should mourn freely. Avoid setting deadlines when you should feel “recovered”.
- You have to do everything necessary to feel a little better every day.
- Do not forget to take care of your physical and emotional health. If you need professional help, do not hesitate to seek it.
- No one should pressure you about what to do with clothes and accessories bought for the baby.
- The laughter is healthy. Do not be afraid and do not think that you will desecrate your baby’s memory if you smile or feel happy.
- Finally, if you need a ritual to honor or remember your baby, perform it.
Perinatal grief must be independent of the reasons that caused the loss of the baby. The woman, the partner, and the family have the right to experience and overcome their pain. Slowly but surely, everyone will recover. It’s about being patient and waiting.
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