I’ve had four, maybe five, miscarriages. They’ve each been unique and brought their own lessons on management and aftercare. Miscarriages can be rough. Physically. Emotionally. Practically. Even with my deep knowledge of miscarriage management, I struggle with them just like anyone else. We’re human. Losing children is challenging.
After my second miscarriage, the deepest, most meaningful healing I experienced was through sex. The miscarriage came about suddenly, it was bloody and messy and painful. It was also devastating, emotionally. The only thing that calmed me was scrubbing my bloody laundry by hand in the bathtub, physical labour exhausting me so I didn’t have the energy to feel my grief. After a few days, lying in our bed and doing his best to reach out to me, my husband and I made love. It happened organically. My husband was careful and gentle, asking permission for every step and I yearned, longed for some kind of connection that was rooted in love and creation, not in the loss we were feeling so deeply.
Yes, it was bloody.
Yes, I cried most of the time.
I cried because we lost our baby and that was sad. I cried because I loved him and I was grateful for our primal connection. I cried because I was happy in my body and feeling joy and love, feeling loved, was a profound relief.
It was a peak moment in an otherwise grief-laden experience. It was a reminder that my body was capable of more than bleeding and loss and failure, but also joy and pleasure and creation.
I continued to bleed and grieve for a few weeks, but there was a shift in our connection, a shift in how I was relating with my body, and a shift in my healing that day. It was integral to my healing.
YES I was aware that people are told NOT to have sex (or put anything in your vagina) for a few weeks after a miscarriage. I ignored that advice. And I’m glad I did.
Healing after a miscarriage can be challenging, and should be a process unique to each individual. Despite the uniqueness of each miscarriage experience, each body experiencing the miscarriage, and the trust in healing modalities of each community, advice to most things in obstetrics, miscarriage included, is often presented as one-size-fits-all generic recommendations to follow. Often these are not accompanied with explanations as to WHY those recommendations are made, so folks are expected to follow them with blind adherence, and without critical thinking of if it applies to them, and if they choose to ignore it, what else they can do in its place.
For example, one of the more ubiquitous pieces of advice after miscarriage is :
no sex or anything else in the vagina for 2-6 weeks*
*I’ve seen varying accounts suggesting 2 weeks (in accordance with post-abortion recommendations) or 6 weeks (in accordance with post-birth recommendations)
The why behind this recommendation is commonly cited as “infection prevention”. The thought being that if the cervix is open (to permit bleeding) and the uterus vulnerable (in the process of shedding abundant endometrial and potentially fetal tissue), and things are introduced into the vagina (fingers, penises, toys, even tampons), these could bring or breed pathogens and lead to infection.
Logically, it makes sense. Sort of.
Except when you consider that the bleeding and cervical opening during an early miscarriage is physically similar to Day 1 of menstruation, and many people have sex on their period without getting infections. Or how folks go in bathtubs and have vaginal checks while in labour to give birth with a cervix much more dilated than during a miscarriage and do not automatically contract infections. Or how presumably, if fingers/toys/penises are familiar to this body, and are clean on insertion, any bacteria would also be familiar to this body, and a body exposed to familiar germs is not likely to all of a sudden contract infection from them.
I’m not saying we should disregard this advice altogether, and put anything we want in all our vaginas immediately following miscarriage. But I am saying we should understand how recommendations came to be, and lend some critical thought to their relevance in each individual circumstance.
Taking this critical though further, if you understand the recommendation, why it’s made, and why it may or may not be relevant to you, you can also make further plans in how to protect your body outside these recommendations.
Is keeping all things out of the vagina a good way to prevent infection? Yes.
Are there other ways to prevent infection? Yes.
So when I had sex while my body was still freshly miscarrying, I took a few extra steps to prevent infection in my body. I took the following extra measures:
kept well hydrated
ate a nutritious diet
ate cloves of raw garlic for antibacterial/microbial support
took echinacea / goldenseal tincture three times daily for immune support
showered and changed my pads frequently
took my temperature twice daily to check for fever
monitored my blood and discharge for foul-smelling odours
I used my critical awareness of my own body, my lived experience in my own body, my own knowledge of my own self, my own sexuality, and my shared sexuality and connection with my husband, as well as obstetrical recommendations. When I chose to work outside obstetrical recommendations, I took extra precautions to keep my beloved body healthy. And healing. Which included engaging in my sexuality as soon as I damn well pleased.
Now, when I counsel clients losing their pregnancies, I make sure to explain how to keep the body healthy through miscarriage, how to prevent infection, and also how to promote love, self-love, and sexuality, even in the midst of miscarriage.