There’s really no other way to say it—miscarriages are brutal on every level. They usher in a devastating feeling of loss, but they can also be tough on the body. Pregnancy hormones often continue to float around the body after the pregnancy ends, which can mess with your mood. And in some cases, that hormonal shift may even trigger postpartum depression (PPD).
We turned to Erica Hornthal, a Chicago-based clinical counselor, who weighed in on the ways PPD can present itself after a miscarriage and treatment options for those suffering. If you’ve recently gone through a loss and you’re struggling to cope, here’s what you should know.
PPD after a miscarriage is often missed
“Postpartum refers to the birth of a child, and if you didn’t give birth it can be misleading or confusing,” says Hornthal. So keep in mind: you don’t have to go through a full-term pregnancy, give birth, or deal with new motherhood in order to experience PPD. Don’t hesitate to seek out help if you’re having a hard time. Your experience still matters, and you deserve to feel better.
Your hormones may be to blame
Hormones like estrogen and progesterone, which rise during pregnancy, decline when you miscarry, and that in and of itself can affect your mental state, says Hornthal. A drop in estrogen can trigger feelings of sadness and hopelessness, while lowering progesterone levels can cause fatigue, changes in mood, and sluggishness. On top of all that, we’re more susceptible to depression during major life events or transitions like a miscarriage.
There’s a fine line between grief and clinical depression
“It is important to understand the difference between grief and clinical depression,” says Hornthal. “If your depressed mood is affecting your daily life, it is vital that you see a professional for help.” While that can mean different things for everyone, if you’re struggling to get out of bed, experiencing changes in your appetite, or simply don’t feel like yourself, those are all signs you might want to chat with a mental health pro.
Treatment options exist
A therapist or psychiatrist can help determine the best course of treatment for you, whether that involves counseling, lifestyle modifications, or medications like antidepressants. “[Treatments] allow the individual to gain control over their emotions rather than feeling like the emotions are in control and calling the shots. It is important to [understand and] weigh all your options for treatment to find the right fit for you,” says Hornthal.
Self-care is imperative
There’s no shame in getting help if you feel like you need it, and seeking treatment from a mental health professional can make the world of a difference if you’re working through PPD. But don’t discount the value of self-care, which can improve your symptoms, too. Hornthal’s a big proponent of using movement as part of your recovery: “Walking, dancing, stretching, and breathing is vital in order to remain connected to your body. This does not have to be strenuous exercise—being present to our emotions and how they manifest in our bodies is ultimately the best way to move forward.”
About the expert: Erica Hornthal, MA, LCPC, BC-DMT, is a licensed clinical counselor and board-certified dance/movement therapist. She specializes in body-based psychotherapy; using movement and body mindfulness to promote mental health and emotional well-being. Erica is the CEO and founder of Chicago Dance Therapy, a movement therapy practice dedicated to serving individuals of all ages and abilities in need of mental health and counseling services.