Healing from The Grief of Stillbirth

A stillbirth is defined as the death of a baby from 20 weeks of incubation to attempted birth. What makes a stillbirth different is that the mother experiences the birth and death of her child in one single traumatic event within the entirety of her pregnancy. Surprisingly, experiencing a stillbirth is quite common. According to a 2020 study, about 1 in every 150 pregnancies ends in stillbirth (Huberty et al., 2020).

Symptoms and Aftermath of Stillbirth

The symptoms of stillbirth include a few key elements, such as stopping fetal movements and kicks from the baby, spotting or bleeding in the mother, and no fetal heartbeat heard with a stethoscope. After a stillbirth is declared and the fetus dies, labor will begin on its own within the following two weeks. However, the mother can speed up this process with medication-induced labor.

The after-effects of stillbirth within the mother include symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Grieving mothers are seven times more likely to have symptoms of PTSD, four times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression, and twice as likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (Huberty et al., 2020).

Yoga as a Healing Practice

Even though experiencing a stillbirth can be common, the real question is, how do we heal from such a traumatic event? The answer might be more simple than we think. Studies have shown that practicing yoga can be a positive and healing activity to improve women’s well-being during the inter-conception period, which is the period between having a stillbirth and attempting to become pregnant again. “Yoga has been reported to reduce symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depressive symptoms in a number of populations, and it is a complementary approach to reduce stress during pregnancy and aiding in postpartum depression” (Huberty et al., 2020).

Practicing yoga cultivates mindfulness, allowing the yogi to focus their attention inward, increasing their mind and body awareness. In the yogic practice, mindfulness helps one accept their emotions, improve regulation and reduce avoidance, promote self-compassion, and help one become more aware of negative self-talk (Huberty et al., 2020).

Benefits of Regular Yoga Practice

The beautiful part about experiencing the benefits is that we have to show up to the yoga class and participate. This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to participate in person; we can do many online yoga classes at home, which will facilitate the healing benefits explained above. Some scientific studies claim that only 60 minutes a week for 12 weeks will begin the healing process in the bereaved mother! That’s about 9-10 minutes a day/ per week for three months. That sounds doable, right?

Experiencing stillbirth is a mother and couple’s worst nightmare. Nothing can erase this traumatic event or even come close to taking the pain away. The only way forward is to work through the pain, as hard and unpleasant as this sounds. Practicing yoga for about 10 minutes a day, for three months at a minimum, can help the grieving mother work through uncomfortable and negative feelings, only to experience a reduction in symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Other Healing Strategies After Stillbirth

Aside from participating in yoga, there are alternative ways to heal from experiencing a stillbirth, such as support groups, nourishing your body with the correct food, proper sleep, and some sort of exercise, such as a

10-minute walk. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist, and ophthalmologist, states that taking just a minimum 10-minute walk activates the “feel good” chemicals. The “feel good” chemicals include dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins which leave you feeling more energized than before and put you in a positive state of mind.

Seeking Help

If you or someone you know has experienced a stillbirth and needs to talk to someone, please get in touch with us so we can help them walk through this extremely tough time. We have counselors specializing in grief and PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and we would be grateful to offer support.

By Lindsey Schmid, LPC-A

Firefly Therapy Austin is Affordable, Effective Therapy for Austin, Texas.
Find out more about our Therapists and Specialties.