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What mental health support can I receive after miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss?
A loss, even in the early weeks of pregnancy, can trigger mental health issues for the parents and their families. Along with the physical healing, there will be a grieving process.
Understanding pregnancy and infant loss terms can help you find the necessary resources for you or your family.
Miscarriage is the sudden pregnancy loss before the 20th week. Most miscarriages happen in the first three months of the pregnancy, known as the first trimester. This type of early loss usually occurs because the fetus stops growing.
A Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) is when a pregnancy is ended due to the health of the unborn baby or that of the mother.
A stillbirth happens when the fetus dies after week 20 of pregnancy. Stillbirths can happen for many reasons, including problems with the placenta or umbilical cord, genetic conditions or other pregnancy complications.
If the baby dies within the first 28 days of life, this is called neonatal death. The leading causes of neonatal death are premature birth, low birth weight or congenital conditions.
The Public Health Agency of Canada uses the umbrella term Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) “to describe all sudden, unexpected infant deaths for which a cause is not immediately clear.” The death is then investigated, and usually be a specific cause identified, like an infection, disease or accident; when there is no identified cause, the designation is often Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
All of which are traumatic for the parents and family. There is still a lot unknown about SUDI both in the medical community and with the public; this may lead to parents not receiving the support they need or feeling blamed for their child's death.
How can I get counselling and support
You should speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you or your loved one develops poor mental health concerning the loss of a pregnancy or infant, particularly if the feelings are increasingly impacting your daily life negatively. A loss like this can affect your mental health in some of the following ways:
- Feelings of discouragement and emotional pain.
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, and anger.
- Symptoms of moderate to severe depression and high-stress levels.
If you feel overwhelmed or are in crisis, you should get help now; either contact your healthcare provider or go to the nearest emergency room.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in Ontario is October 15. Some of the resources the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) suggests are:
The AOM also suggests that your community hospital can usually provide local resources.
For More Information
- Connex Ontario Provides free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling by connecting them with services in their area. Email and e-chat are also available.
- Health 811 - Connect with a registered nurse day or night for free, secure and confidential health advice.
- Wellness Together Canada provides Mental health and substance use support for people in Canada and Canadians abroad, including free and virtual, 1:1 phone, video, and text counselling.
October 23, 2023