When you want a baby and find out you’re pregnant, you can’t wait to share the good news. Telling people you’ve miscarried, however, isn’t easy, but it might be an important step toward healing. And it could help other women who need miscarriage support.
Early pregnancy loss — a miscarriage during the first 13 weeks — happens in about 10 percent of known pregnancies, says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. That doesn’t include women who miscarry before they even realize they’re pregnant or women who lose the baby after the first trimester. Despite how common miscarriages are, many women keep quiet about their experiences and tell only a few close loved ones they’ve miscarried.
Speaking up when you’re feeling down can be difficult, but it’s a critical part of the healing process. Here are four reasons why talking about pregnancy loss helps women and families coping with miscarriage.
1. There’s comfort in numbers.
Although miscarriage is quite common — between 10 and 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage, says the American Pregnancy Association — most people think it’s rare. A 2015 survey published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that 55 percent of respondents believed that miscarriage occurs in less than 5 percent of pregnancies.
Not only are miscarriages incredibly common, they’re also incredibly isolating. Among survey respondents who miscarried, 41 percent reported feeling alone.
“It’s much more common than people often realize,” said Laurie McKechnie, a nurse practitioner at Lynn Women’s Health, an OB/GYN practice affiliated with Lahey Health. “It feels different for every person, and many women feel alone in their grief. If more women talked about it, they would realize how many of their friends have had miscarriages. I had two miscarriages in between my two children. Knowing you’re not alone can be comforting.”
2. Women might stop blaming themselves.
There are many myths about what causes a miscarriage — that they’re caused by stress or intense exercise or something else women can control. This often makes women feel as though the miscarriage is their fault.
More than half of all miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities. Maternal age and certain diseases also play a role. Lifestyle choices are almost never to blame. Stress, working, exercising, having intercourse and birth control use do not contribute to miscarriage, and falls are rarely the reason, especially in the first trimester. Some studies suggest smoking and alcohol use can be factors, but according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the results of those studies are unclear. (The ACOG advises against smoking and drinking during pregnancy regardless, as it puts you and your child at risk.)
“Women shouldn’t feel it’s their fault or that they could have prevented this,” McKechnie said. “More often than not, it’s just your body’s way of telling you that the pregnancy is not developing normally.”
3. Acknowledging a loss is part of grieving.
There’s an old Swedish proverb: “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.”
When someone dies, family and friends mourn together and share the sorrow. When a baby dies before being born, parents often feel as though they’re not supposed to mourn the loss, especially if the miscarriage happens early or if they didn’t want to be pregnant. But most people experience grief after a miscarriage, and it can help to share those feelings.
“Even in the most undesired pregnancy, there’s still an emotional component that goes along with it, and it really doesn’t matter at what gestational age or trimester it happens,” McKechnie said. “Obviously some miscarriages are more traumatic than others, but even in the early gestational age, it is a loss, and that can leave you feeling empty. Holding those emotions in doesn’t feel good. To recognize that at any gestational age there is a loss can often make women feel a little more comforted. Women need to know it’s OK to be sad and to ask for support. The same goes for their partners.”
That support can come from family and friends, a therapist or a support group. Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support lists local miscarriage support groups and offers other online resources for women and families coping with miscarriage.
4. It would give women hope.
Having a miscarriage does slightly increase your odds of having another. However, repeated pregnancy loss is rare, and most women go on to have successful pregnancies.
“It’s important to stay hopeful. Until there’s a pattern — three or more miscarriages — we have no reason to think the next pregnancy won’t continue normally. Some women have several miscarriages and still go on to have healthy children. A miscarriage can feel truly devastating, but it’s not the end of the line for family planning.”
If you or someone you know has recently had a miscarriage and is having trouble coping with the loss, a mental health professional may be able to help. Find a Lahey professional near you.