Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death: Understanding Grief and Trauma

Pregnancy loss and infant death can be devastating experiences that leave expectant and new parents in shock and deeply grieving. In addition to experiencing many painful symptoms, parents can worry about whether there is something wrong with them for feeling how they feel. While anticipatory guidance doesn’t eliminate grief, it can assuage fears about grieving and clarify what is normal after loss has been experienced.

My newly updated information sheet, Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death: Understanding Grief and Trauma, offers a brief overview of the nature of grief (and how it differs from depression), trauma, and the kind of support that can be helpful. Here’s an excerpt….

The loss of a baby during pregnancy, during birth, or after birth can be an indescribably painful and devastating experience. In the beginning, parents may feel a sense of disbelief, numbness, and shock. They may feel like their dreams for the future have been cruelly wrenched from them. They may experience guilt and ask unanswerable questions: Why my baby? Why me? Their arms and hearts may ache with emptiness. The reactions of friends and family, co-workers, and strangers may reflect ignorant insensitivity or the deepest compassion. Unfortunately, many societies do not fully recognize pregnancy loss and infant death as real losses, often leaving bereaved parents feeling invalidated and alone in their grief. Parents may feel great pressure to act as though they have “moved on” when they are actually still grieving and they have been changed forever by the living and the dying of their baby. They may quickly realize that few people are able to listen to them and to support them in their grief. Learning about the normalcy and healthiness of grief can be a critical step in finding ways to grieve well.

Cynthia Good

You can read the full information sheet for free here. I hope you find it helpful. And, if you have experienced pregnancy loss or infant death, I am so very sorry for your loss.


World Maternal Mental Health Day

Did you know that the most common medical complications during and after birth are perinatal mood and anxiety disorders which affect at least one in seven women? And did you know that only half of mothers diagnosed with depression during pregnancy and after birth receive any treatment? Yesterday, in honor of Maternal Mental Health Week in the United States, Mathmatica released a new analysis outlining how these conditions reduce maternal productivity and increase the cost of medical and social services. The analysis reveals measurable markers of the huge and often private hardship perinatal depression poses to mothers and their families.

On May 1st, World Maternal Mental Health Day. I am joining advocates around the globe in creating awareness about the importance of maternal mental health. If you are a perinatal care provider, one way to do that is to have materials — such as posters, handouts, and referral lists — in your setting that let parents know how common perinatal mental health challenges are and that they can talk to you about their emotional well being.

While World Maternal Mental Health Day inspired me to create this poster, parents of all genders can experience mental health challenges, so my poster is inclusive.

Myth: Parents who love their baby are always happy. Fact: Loving parents feel joy, sorrow, gratitude, frustration, and many other emotions. Perinatal depression and anxiety and other mental health challenges are common. Act: Ask your health care provider for screening, information, and referrals. You are not alone.

Copyright 2019 Cynthia Good

How will you help create awareness about perinatal mental health?


Coping with Perinatal Stress and Depression

Many expectant and new parents feel like they are the only ones facing challenges during pregnancy and after birth. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Stress and depression are very common in the perinatal time period, which is inherently a time of great upheaval. But, recommendations for self care are typically rather limited—as if quick and easy actions (manicure, anyone?) can meet complex needs. In reality, many people need self care that is both broad and deep to meaningfully renew body, mind, and spirit.

My newly updated information sheet, Coping with Perinatal Stress and Depression, reviews how common depression is, what symptoms can look like, the importance of diagnosis and treatment, and self care strategies that can help new parents cope. Here’s an excerpt:

One way to remember coping strategies that can help parents reduce stress and relieve depression is to consider the critical importance of self care.

Ask for support in specific ways. No one was meant to parent alone. Support can be social, like talking with a partner or a friend, attending a support group, participating in a religious, cultural, or other type of community group, or consulting a counselor. It can also be practical, such as help with childcare, meals, housework, or errands.

Attend to your emotions. They are important messages about your needs. Express them through conversation, writing, drawing, dance or other physical activity, music, creating or building something, or counseling. Recognize and express the positive and negative emotions that you feel. All emotions need appreciation….

~ Cynthia Good

You can read the full information sheet for free here. I hope you find it helpful!