Opening Up About Miscarriage

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Miscarriages are shockingly common. According to the American Pregnancy Association, an estimated 10 to 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The most common cause of miscarriage is a chromosomal abnormality resulting from a damaged egg or sperm or because the baby’s cells aren’t dividing properly. But a slew of factors ranging from hormonal shifts to faulty implantation may lead to a miscarriage.

Whatever the reason, miscarriage during the first trimester is so common that doctors used to advise women not to disclose their pregnancies until the second trimester.

“The unspoken part is that you shouldn’t tell people about the pregnancy in case you have a miscarriage,” says Melodee Babcock, CNM, a certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford Health System.

Breaking the Silence

Women are slowly becoming more comfortable talking about the women's health issues they experience, whether it's their menstrual periods, premenstrual syndrome or menopause, or opening up about postpartum depression or miscarriage.

“We are beginning to recognize that talking about our experiences is part of the healing process,” Babcock says.

Instead of keeping an early pregnancy under wraps, newly pregnant women are increasingly sharing the news with trusted loved ones and confidants. In so doing, they’re opening a doorway to support from people who mean the most to them.

Here, Babcock offers some insight about how to respond to miscarriage, whether you’re the woman suffering or someone who loves her:

  • For the woman: Women often think they’re to blame if they drank alcohol before they knew they were pregnant or had sex that somehow endangered the pregnancy. “The reality is, most miscarriages happen through no fault of the woman,” Babcock says. Still, it’s important to talk about emotions like these with people you know will be supportive.

    If you’ve already shared your pregnancy with loved ones and friends, you might ask a family member to let your social circle know you’ve had a miscarriage if you don't feel like telling everyone directly. “It could be something as simple as, ‘The family has experienced a loss and they’re not ready to talk about it,’” says Babcock.

    No matter how you are feeling in the aftermath of a miscarriage, try to let go of feelings of guilt or ideas of how you are "supposed to" feel or act. Some women who had unplanned pregnancies or suffered from difficulties early in pregnancy are relieved to discover they’ve had a miscarriage. Instead of judging yourself for every thought and feeling, allow yourself to experience a range of emotions.

  • For her partner: Spouses and partners may not experience the cramping, bleeding and physical loss of a pregnancy, but they still have to watch someone they love suffer. They might also be grieving for the family they envisioned.

    “In general, spouses like to spring into action and fix things. At the same time, they’re often expected to be strong and not show their emotions,” Babcock says. “The best thing is to be supportive, let your partner know you’re there for her and try to be especially sensitive.”

    Avoid saying things like, “It’s okay, we’ll just have another one.” While well-intentioned, a remark like this tends to dismiss the woman’s experience and make her feel worse for grieving. Instead, consider inviting your partner to participate in a memorial project or commemoration of some kind. Plant a tree, get a tattoo, host a memorial service. It doesn’t matter what you do. The goal is to spend time together honoring the loss and deciding how — and when — it feels right for you both to move forward.

  • For a loved one, friend or colleague: Figuring out how to approach a woman who has suffered a miscarriage can be particularly challenging. You want to be supportive but you don't want to say the wrong thing. Here are a few do’s and don’ts you can follow:

    DO
    • Say, “I’m sorry. This must be a difficult time for you. I’m here for you if you need anything.”
    • Offer help. Bring over meals or take the couple out to dinner if they’re up to it. Arrange for a house cleaner to clean the house. Run errands, babysit, or walk the dog. Come over to watch movies and just chill out with her. Take her lead and find out what will be most useful.
    • Let her know you're thinking of her. Send flowers or a card, or give her a gift card for a massage.

    DON’T
    • Say things like, “at least it happened now, instead of later,” or, “at least you know you can get pregnant,” or, “you can try again later,” or, “God has a plan.” Again, while these may be well-meaning sentiments, they can feel dismissive of her experience.
    • Construct a time frame for the grieving process.
    • Ask if there’s anything you can do and then not follow through.

    If the woman seems unfazed about the experience, don’t press her. She may be okay, and that’s okay, too.

Related Topic: 6 Myths About Midwives

Understanding Miscarriage

It’s important for everyone — men and women alike — to feel comfortable discussing women’s health issues.

“Women’s health is under-researched and under-discussed, so there’s a huge stigma and mystery around things like miscarriage,” Babcock says. “If you’re comfortable talking about it, you’ll discover that there are a lot of other women who have experienced miscarriage and that can be a source of help and support.”

If you do lose a pregnancy, seeing past the pain and focusing on next steps might seem impossible. Take it one day at a time. And if you do want to pursue getting pregnant again, know that there’s a body of research to suggest that most women who suffer miscarriages do go on to have full-term pregnancies.

If you’re experiencing depression or intrusive thoughts, talk to your health care provider.


To find a doctor or certified nurse midwife at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

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Melodee Babcock is a certified nurse midwife, seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Livonia and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

Categories: FeelWell

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