Written by Korin Miller

Experts want you to know that it’s not your fault.

Last week, former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson shared the heartbreaking news that she had a miscarriage just a few days after discovering that she was pregnant. Now, she’s speaking out about the emotional aftermath of her loss in a follow-up YouTube video simply titled, “After the Miscarriage”.

In the video, Johnson says she initially felt, on some level, like she could have done something to prevent her loss. “The day I was told we were miscarrying, I felt guilty. I felt sad,” she says in the 16-minute video. Johnson says she even told her husband, Andrew East, “I’m sorry I lost your baby.”

“I felt like it was something that I did,” she continues. “I didn’t take care of the baby well enough, or I was stressed out too much, or I didn’t take the right prenatal vitamins.”

Unfortunately, guilt is a common and devastating reaction that many people experience after miscarriage.

“Guilt is the most common and most difficult thing for women who have gone through miscarriages,” Tamar Gur, M.D., Ph.D., a women’s health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. “There’s just this component of, ‘I failed the baby in some way, so how could I not be responsible?'”

But those feelings, while totally understandable, are usually misplaced, Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and Director of Minimally Invasive Gynecology at The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago, tells SELF. “We spend a lot of time with women [to make sure they] understand that it’s not their fault,” she says.

Miscarriages are far more common than many realize and, in most cases, they aren’t preventable.

According to statistics from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Pregnancy Association, somewhere between 10 and 25 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.

About half of all miscarriages can be traced back to chromosomal abnormalities, ACOG explains. Sperm and eggs each have 23 chromosomes and, during fertilization, those chromosomes get matched up. But, if they get matched in a weird way or at least one set is off, the fertilized egg will end up with an abnormal amount of chromosomes. That means that, in many cases, development won’t be able to move forward and the pregnancy will be lost.

“The body does have a way of recognizing when something may not be compatible with life or the pregnancy may not be successful,” Dr. Shepherd says. Meaning, if someone miscarries, it’s unlikely that their baby would have survived outside the womb if it even made it to that point.

There are a few other factors that can contribute to miscarriages that aren’t due to chromosomal issues, G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D., an ob/gyn at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif., tells SELF. This includes: poor implantation of the fertilized egg on the uterine lining, a uterine abnormality that makes it more difficult for implantation to happen, and hormonal issues.

When it comes to taking prenatal vitamins, they’re definitely important, but forgetting to take them on any given day or two will not cause a woman to miscarry, Dr. Shepherd says. Additionally, ACOG says that exercising, working, using birth control pills, drinking a moderate amount of caffeine, or having sex will not cause a miscarriage.

“In the majority of cases, it really is something that just happens,” Dr. Ruiz says. Even doctors can’t do much to help before a pregnancy gets to the second trimester, he adds. And even then, there’s no guarantee that they can stop a miscarriage.

While it’s important to realize that you didn’t do anything wrong, you also shouldn’t judge yourself for feeling what you’re feeling after such a difficult experience.

Even though these feelings of guilt are likely misplaced, it’s important to let yourself grieve this loss. “Grief is a normal emotional feeling after having a miscarriage,” Dr. Shepherd says. If you suffer a miscarriage, you should cut yourself some seriously slack and allow yourself to mourn your loss—and it is a loss, even if you suffer a miscarriage early in your pregnancy, Dr. Gur says. “Women know the statistics but finding out about a pregnancy is just an instant connection,” she says. “When it’s lost, it’s just devastating.”

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for those feelings to become more serious—research suggeststhat about 40 percent of women develop post-traumatic stress disorder following pregnancy loss. So if you find that your feelings are getting worse with time, you have a lack of desire to do anything, or you’re struggling to get out of bed, Dr. Gur says it’s time to talk to a professional.

No matter the guilt you may feel, it wasn’t your fault. “These things happen for known and unknown reasons,” Dr. Gur continues, “and in my clinical practice I have yet to meet someone who intentionally or unintentionally caused a miscarriage.”

View original article – https://www.self.com/story/why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-after-a-miscarriage