Ways to Cope with Guilt After a Miscarriage

Don't Let Self-Blame Hinder Your Healing

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Guilt is one of the common reactions nearly all women experience after a miscarriage. Whether your loss was so early you didn’t even know you were pregnant or you were only days from your due date, it’s hard not to wonder if you did anything wrong and what you could have done to prevent it. The hard truth is that there was most likely nothing you could have done. In most cases, there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent your pregnancy loss.

Ways to Deal With Guilt After Miscarriage

Recognizing that you were most likely powerless to prevent your miscarriage or stillbirth is a difficult but important step in relieving your guilt. You may never completely eliminate those nagging feelings of "what if…" and "if I only…" But you may be able to channel your self-blaming tendencies into something positive.

There is no simple way of getting rid of guilty feelings or to stop blaming yourself, but there are some techniques you can try to alleviate those feelings.

Understand Guilt

In psychology, guilt is viewed as an emotion that stems from doing or believing we have done something wrong when we had the chance to do the right thing. In the case of a miscarriage, guilt most likely results from feelings of helplessness. We wish there was some warning for what was about to happen, some chance to intervene. It’s very difficult for people to see something as inevitable, especially with modern medicine at our disposal. As a result, we tend to look for anything we could have done differently, and feel guilty that we didn’t do it. Even knowing there was nothing you or your doctor could have done to change the outcome may not eliminate the feeling that you should have done more.

Make a Change

If you have any concerns that your lifestyle choices may have played a role in your loss, you have the opportunity, and the power to make changes in your life. If you’ve already decided to have more children, this is a good opportunity to make healthier choices for yourself. Quit smoking, eliminate alcohol, use stress reduction techniques, get regular medical care and follow your doctors’ instructions, especially if you have a chronic medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

Whether or not you had an impact on your pregnancy loss, you can recognize your feelings of self-blame. Seeing your feelings as feelings—and not an indication of your actual guilt—can be the first step in letting go of the unhelpful emotions. Maybe it would help if you express your regret to your baby. A private, focused conversation, spoken aloud or to yourself, or a letter of apology addressed to your baby may help relieve some of your feelings.

Ask for Forgiveness

In all likelihood, no one blames you for your pregnancy loss. That doesn’t mean you can’t express your feelings of guilt to someone in your life and ask for forgiveness. You might be surprised by how relieved you feel if you tell your spouse or partner you’ve been blaming yourself and want their forgiveness. If you are religious, speak to your religious leader. Whether or not your faith has a formalized confession, your religious leader will most likely welcome your thoughts and help you seek forgiveness.

Help Someone Else

It’s too late to change your own pregnancy outcome, but working to help others from experiencing the same grief can help alleviate feelings of guilt. Donate to a research organization dedicated to reducing miscarriage. Volunteer to speak about your experiences at a support group. Do work at your hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Help out at a low-income prenatal clinic, so more women have access to the prenatal care they need for a healthy pregnancy.

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  • Venes, D., ed. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Ninteenth Edition. 2001.

  • Grohol, J.M. Five Tips for Dealing with Guilt. PsychCentral.com. Accessed: 27 Nov 2011.
  • Kazdin, A., ed. Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2000.
  • Smith, E.R. & Mackie, D.M. Social Psychology, 3rd ed. 2007.

By Elizabeth Czukas, RN, MSN
Elizabeth Czukas is a writer who who has worked as an RN in high-risk obstetrics, antepartum care, and with women undergoing pregnancy loss.