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Grief and pregnancy loss: 5 things you should know

Perinatal bereavement is complex. Families who experience a miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death often feel a profound sense of loss. It’s a topic that no one really talks about, but happens often. Up to 30 percent of women at some point in their reproductive years have a pregnancy loss

man and woman holding hands with baby shoes / how to deal with miscarriages and childhood death
Families can find support after experiencing infant loss and have opportunities to remember their child.

“There is no timeline on grief,” said Stacie Krieg, R.N., Birth Center Together Learning to Cope (TLC) coordinator for bereavement support at Marshfield Children’s Hospital. “Our goal is to make sure any patient experiencing a loss knows that support is available.”

Every loss is different

Miscarriages are defined as a loss of a baby before 20 weeks of pregnancy, and a stillbirth is a loss at 20 weeks or later, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, there’s no definition on how, when or sometimes, why a loss occurs.

Each family experiences loss in a different way at any gestation. You may be at home, in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN), urgent care or the emergency department.  No matter when or where – care is available and individualized to you and your family.

Talk to your health care team

Marshfield Clinic Health System and other health care organizations have providers who are certified in bereavement and grief counseling. Request an appointment with our Behavioral Health counselors, or contact Marshfield’s Secure Bereavement Voice Message Line at 715-387-7476 for support and guidance through this difficult time.

After a perinatal loss, you should make a follow-up appointment with your women’s health provider for your physical and emotional recovery. Most facilities will provide patients with information, resources and counseling if interested.

“It can be very overwhelming at the time, so I tell my patients, ‘You probably aren’t going to want to look at this information right now. You may want to walk out of this room and toss it,’” said Lynette Kelnhofer, registered nurse at Marshfield Medical Center OB/GYN. “’But, I encourage you to put it in a drawer. In a few weeks, you may find it healing to go back and read through some of this information.’”

Take your time

For those who experience loss of an infant after delivery, the Health System also offers cuddle cots in Eau Claire, Marshfield and Rice Lake for patients and their families. A cuddle cot allows the family to spend as much time with their baby, while also preserving the body. However, cuddle cots are not required as you can do what works for you.

“We encourage families to spend as much time holding and loving their baby as possible,” said Krieg. “We encourage you to hold, rock, love, sing and talk with your baby.”

Creating remembrance

Some bereavement programs offer a chance to create keepsakes and other remembrance items. These may include mementos such as memory boxes, keychains, mini-memory blanket, footprint cards, hand and foot molds, a lock of hair or photography if wanted.

“We want every patient to know that their baby was special to us, and that we will be thinking of them and their families during this difficult time,” Kelnhofer said.

Support is always available

Healing can take time. Families can find support with others who have experienced loss and have opportunities to remember their babies. Losing a baby is something that no one should feel they have to go through alone. The Health System has formal support groups available.

“The family will be able to choose what is right for them,” Krieg said. “It is so important to know that they are not alone.”

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