What Clinicians Miss About Miscarriages: Clinical Errors in the Treatment of Early Term Perinatal Loss

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Abstract

In this article, clinical errors in the treatment of perinatal grief after a miscarriage are discussed, including (a) minimizing or avoiding painful affects related to the miscarriage, (b) assuming grief is resolved upon a subsequent healthy pregnancy, and (c) neglecting early unresolved losses that are reawakened by the loss of the pregnancy. It is argued that these unintentional errors, frequently committed by significant others in the patient’s life, are similarly made by well-intentioned clinicians due to a lack of knowledge about the psychological impact of miscarriage and, moreover, an unconscious avoidance of such a common yet distressing loss. Background information relevant to each clinical error is briefly reviewed, followed by recommendations for a better approach to the situation and verbatim clinical exchanges. The author suggests that, in general, a better approach to treatment is based on the assumptions that: (a) miscarriage is often a traumatic loss in a woman’s life, and (b) the traumatic affect associated with the event should be approached, rather than avoided, within a safe affect regulating relationship with the therapist.

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