While the postpartum period — defined as immediately after delivery until the body has “returned to its pre-pregnant state” — is six to eight weeks (though there is still no federally mandated parental leave policy) there’s little discussion around the recovery timeline following an incomplete pregnancy. Even if you don’t ultimately give birth, your body is likely to experience a range of physical and hormonal changes as a result of the initial pregnancy.
The type of physical aftercare you’ll need can vary depending on how far along you were in your pregnancy. The farther along you are, the longer these hormones can have an effect on your body, according to Jasmine Pedroso, MD MPH FACOG, OB/GYN, including hormonal and physiological changes like nausea, fluid retention, dysgeusia (a decrease in the ability to taste), and breast tenderness, among others.
She explains: “Typically after a full-term pregnancy, the hormone changes last about six weeks, but can last beyond a year. After an early pregnancy loss or termination, these changes are shorter in duration, typically two to four weeks.” In this event, Dr. Pedroso says these effects can include irregular bleeding, cramping, and mood changes, all of which typically resolve over the aforementioned two to four weeks.
An incomplete pregnancy also carries with it significant effects on your mental health. Per Dr. Osborn: “The mental impact [of an incomplete pregnancy] can [include] a wide range of emotional and internal reactions, from sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, grief, relief, confusion. It can all be there in one day and the cycle back and forth.” She adds that in the case of a miscarriage, the impact of losing the pregnancy may impact a person’s sense of identity. “[I might think] if I can’t have a healthy pregnancy, does this make me less of a woman? It may even unearth pieces of yourself that you didn’t realize you had until they were shattered and confronted and disrupted.”
The Rise of Incomplete Pregnancy Kits
Recently, a new category of products that attempts to address the physical and psychological effects of an incomplete pregnancy has popped up. Brands like Frida and Bodily now provide pre-made packages filled with supplies that you might need after a miscarriage or termination. “After experiencing two unexpected pregnancy losses myself, we felt it was important to address this isolating and physically challenging time in a woman’s life with the same thoughtfulness and sensitivity as we do for [people] who leave a hospital with a baby, especially in light of how similar some of the needs are,” says Frida CEO Chelsea Hirschhorn, who founded the brand in 2014. She explains that vaginal bleeding and uterine pain or cramping are symptomatic of almost all post-pregnancy experiences, complete or not, and how “an overnight menstrual pad sometimes doesn’t cut it when it comes to ensuring a comfortable recovery.” She designed the Frida Recovery Kit for Incomplete Pregnancies ($34.99) with these shortcomings in mind. It’s stocked with four pairs of disposable underwear, six ultra-absorbent maxi pads, and an upside-down peri bottle for easy cleansing in the shower and after going to the bathroom.