Pregnancy loss is one of the most emotional and physical ordeals that a woman can endure. “The psychological impact of a miscarriage can be detrimental for some people. It can have a mental and emotional impact, varying in duration from one person to the next,” Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a family and emergency doctor and the medical director at CityMD, tells Scary Mommy. “It can cause anxiety and depression, which needs to be addressed. That’s why it’s important to have a primary care doctor to help you through the process.” It’s also why it’s not uncommon that sex is a touchy subject for women who have gone through miscarriage or a dilation and curettage (D&C). Some women might question their fertility after such an experience while others might be scared of having sex because it could lead to another loss, while others might be wondering when, or if, it will be safe to be intimate with their partners again. Which is why, according to the latest search data available, sex after miscarriage is searched for nearly 6,000 times per month. It’s a loaded subject with tons of questions. If you’ve recently suffered a miscarriage and have questions about sex, you can learn more from our expert, ahead.RELATED: 100+ Self-Care Quotes To Soothe Your Mind, Body, And Soul
What is a miscarriage? What is a D&C?
“Miscarriage occurs when there’s a loss of pregnancy, usually before 20 [to] 24 weeks of pregnancy,” says Nesheiwat. “Sometimes there can be abdominal pain; usually, vaginal bleeding occurs. Also, low blood pressure from bleeding can occur, which can be the result of genetics, chromosomal factors, or an ectopic pregnancy.” Miscarriages are common. According to Nesheiwat, about 30 percent of all pregnancies end up in miscarriage, and there is vaginal bleeding associated with it. “Medical or surgical intervention is sometimes needed when the pregnancy is no longer viable,” says Nesheiwat. A D&C, says Nesheiwat, stands for “dilation and curettage to remove any placenta remnants or fetal tissue out of the uterus after a miscarriage.”
When can you have sex after a miscarriage and D&C?
Sex after miscarriage depends on the individual as well as the couple, and there are both physical and emotional factors to consider.Physically speaking, Nesheiwat says that “after bleeding resolves and the miscarriage is completed, which is usually about two weeks, it’s safe to engage in sexual activity.” According to the International Society of Sexual Medicine (ISSM), after a miscarriage, the uterus and cervix stay partially dilated, which makes these organs more prone to infection until they completely heal. Which is why women are advised not to insert anything into their vaginas, including tampons, until they have completely healed, and all fetal tissue has been removed. The ISSM also advises a woman to have a thorough pelvic exam before having sex again. Upon an examination or a consultation with your OB-GYN, your doctor should be able to clear you for sexual activity.But just because you are cleared by your doctor to resume regular sexual activity doesn’t mean that you are ready emotionally. Dealing with the emotional side effects of pregnancy loss is not as black and white, so sex after a miscarriage is dependent on the woman and couple. It’s normal for grief, depression, and anxiety to set in for either or both partners, which might result in a low sex drive and arousal. The ISSM recommends keeping the lines of communication open between you and your partner; support is key. Counseling might be another option. It’s important to give yourself as much time as you need, and you should certainly never let outside pressures (perhaps from a partner) push you to do anything you are not quite ready for.
Can you have unprotected sex after a miscarriage?
It depends on your situation. If you’re not looking to get pregnant or if you’re not in a monogamous relationship, you should definitely be on some type of birth control and practice safe sex to avoid STDs, says Nesheiwat. “STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and may result in complications with future pregnancies.”If you’re in a relationship and hoping to conceive, Nesheiwat says fertility should not be affected after a miscarriage. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’ve had one miscarriage, there might not be any need to wait to conceive — most women who miscarry go on to have healthy pregnancies after miscarriage. So, basically, you can definitely get pregnant again if you have unprotected sex after a miscarriage. However, says Nesheiwat, “If surgical intervention is required due to heavy bleeding such as a D&C, or if too much of the uterine tissue was removed, it can potentially make it more difficult to become pregnant.” Speak to your OB-GYN about any questions or concerns you might have specific to your health.
How soon can you get pregnant after a miscarriage?
Ovulation can happen as early as two weeks after the loss of a pregnancy with most women returning to their normal menstrual cycles four to six weeks following a miscarriage. If your health is in check and you’re emotionally ready for it, then it’s likely you can get pregnant any time after a miscarriage. While there’s been some back and forth within the medical community about when is the best time to conceive after miscarriage (the WHO recommends six months while the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology doesn’t recommend waiting), it’s said that waiting for at least one full menstrual cycle is advisable. Some doctors recommend three menstrual cycles. If you’re unsure, speak with your OB-GYN.
Does sex hurt after a miscarriage?
The short answer is: No. “Sexual activity after a miscarriage should not be painful,” says Nesheiwat. “If surgical intervention is required, your surgeon may want you to abstain from sexual activity for longer than two to three weeks, depending on the type of miscarriage and the gestational period of when the miscarriage occurred.” If you are experiencing pain after sex, then it’s wise to see your local health practitioner. No matter when you decide to have sex after miscarriage, Nesheiwat says, it’s crucial to make your health a top priority. “It is very important to have routine physicals,” she says. “Make sure you’re up-to-date with your Pap smears, which checks for cervical cancer, and to practice safe sex when applicable.”Go at your own pace and listen to your body every step of the way. Even if your body has physically healed, give your emotions time to catch up. Your pain is valid, so take your time and grieve for as long as you need. Reach out to friends, family, and seek counseling if you need to.
Can sex after a miscarriage cause bleeding?
If you have waited the recommended amount of time for you to stop bleeding but notice brown discharge following intercourse, that may be remnants of blood in your cervix, which isn’t a red flag. However, if you are bleeding heavily or spotting bright red blood, you should reach out to your gynecologist to make sure it’s not a sign of something more serious.
What can you do if you aren’t quite ready for sex? Everyone grieves differently, and sometimes it takes longer to heal emotionally after a miscarriage. That’s entirely understandable. Honor your feelings however they come — including finding other ways to be intimate until you’re ready to have sex again. There are myriad ways to kindle intimacy without intercourse, including:
- holding hands
- giving each other massages
- taking a bath together
- outercourse (sexual activity sans bodily fluids)
What are the long-term mental effects of pregnancy loss?
Even if your body has healed and is mostly back to normal, it’s important to take time to heal yourself emotionally and get the mental health care you need. A process that might take years, according to a recent study. New research out of Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology studied the psychological effects of early pregnancy loss, finding participants suffered post-traumatic stress nine months after a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.Per the study, about one month following a pregnancy loss, nearly 29 percent of women suffered post-traumatic stress while 24 percent reporting moderate to severe anxiety, and 11 percent had moderate to severe depression. Nine months after pregnancy loss, many women still reporting struggling, with 18 percent reporting post-traumatic stress, 17 percent had moderate to severe anxiety, and six percent reporting moderate to severe depression.
What should I look out for after a miscarriage?
Dealing with a miscarriage is difficult, but it’s also important to pay attention to your body afterward. A few red flags to look out for include a fever over 100.4 degrees, extreme drowsiness, pelvic pain, chills, smelly vaginal discharge, or uterus pain. If you experience any of these symptoms, check in with your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.
What should you not do after a miscarriage?
During this time, it’s important to remember to be nice to yourself, Mama. If you’ve had a miscarriage, here are a few things you should avoid doing while you heal.
- Physically, you may feel OK after a miscarriage, but it’s important to take your time. Be sure to check in with your doctor about what’s safe. If they recommend cutting back on your day-to-day exercise or sex, make sure you follow their instructions.
- Many doctors may also recommend not putting anything into your vagina, which includes tampons or having sex. This will help you avoid infection.
- Don’t rush — and we’re not just talking about sex. As your body recovers, your mind is going to need time to mend as well. So, don’t try to just “get over it.” Take time to yourself and go at a speed that works for you.
- Emotionally, check-in with yourself. You may go through a slew of different feelings you don’t understand right away. Acknowledge your trauma and remember it’s OK to not feel at one hundred percent. Make an effort to stay in tune with your feelings and reach out to grief or loss counseling services to help you manage your emotions.
- Don’t keep it a secret. Many women experience miscarriages. So, even if you don’t want to get into details with your coworkers, fine. But you can mention it to those you see often or who are close to you. This will encourage people to be respectful of your feelings and headspace.
What is a rainbow baby?
At some point, you will feel mentally, emotionally, and physically ready again for sex after a miscarriage (even if it seems like that is so far away right now — hang in there!). And that may lead to what is known as a “rainbow baby.” The term rainbow baby was coined to describe a healthy baby born after losing a baby due to miscarriage, neonatal death, or stillbirth. Why a rainbow? Because rainbows brighten the sky after a storm.
What is a sunshine baby?
A sunshine baby is a term used to describe a child born before a miscarriage. The name is a reminder to appreciate the good parts of life or the moments “before the storm.” This is why children born after miscarriage are called rainbow babies. Rainbows usually appear after a storm. However, it doesn’t just refer to miscarriages. Sunshine babies are infants born before any kind of child loss like stillbirth, ectopic pregnancies, or abortion.
Does the stomach keep growing after a miscarriage?
After you miscarry, your stomach won’t continue to grow; but it may take a while for your uterus to shrink to its previous size. This happens because your hormones take time to return to their normal levels. You may even still experience pregnancy symptoms after a miscarriage or a D&C. It may take a few weeks or more for your pre-pregnant body and hormones to go back to normal, which can be a bit confusing or frustrating. So, in addition to visiting your doctor, reach out to a mental health professional to help you work through your emotions too.
Written by Brianne Hogan.
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