Miscarriage

Silent losses: The experience of miscarriage

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, approximately 25% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. Many of these occur very early on in a pregnancy – often before a woman knows she is pregnant.  However, five percent of women experience two consecutive miscarriages, while a small percentage experience multiple miscarriages – a medical condition known as “recurrent miscarriage”. Most miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester) – which is generally considered the period of highest risk for miscarriage. As a consequence, some women and couples wait until after the first trimester before sharing the news of their pregnancy with others.

Known risk factors for miscarriage include, but are not limited to, health conditions (diabetes, thyroid and hormonal problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, infections), immune system factors, being underweight or overweight, advanced maternal and paternal age, and lifestyle factors (smoking, drug use).

The experience of losing a pregnancy can be both physically and emotionally difficult for a woman and her partner, whether in the first trimester of later in a pregnancy. Recurrent miscarriage and pregnancy loss following fertility treatments can be particularly challenging. It is not uncommon to experience a range of emotions (e.g., sadness, disbelief, despair, anger, guilt) after a miscarriage. A woman who miscarries may feel that her body has failed her or that she is in some way responsible for losing the pregnancy. Men can also feel a sense of loss, while also feeling powerless to help their partner with her grief. In addition to the loss of a child, women and their partners may grieve the loss of their dream of becoming a parent, as well as their hopes and expectations about their future. They often are faced with ongoing reminders of their loss, particularly when they see other pregnant women or when friends and family members announce their pregnancies or give birth. Women who go on to become pregnant after a miscarriage, commonly experience more anxiety during the pregnancy, and fear that they might not be able to carry their baby to term.

Because miscarriage is a “taboo” subject, many women and men suffer alone in their grief. If you are finding it difficult to cope after experiencing a miscarriage, it can be very helpful to seek support. You might find it useful to speak with a counsellor or mental health professional who is knowledgeable about reproductive losses. You might also find it helpful to participate in a local or on-line support group of women who share and understand your experience.

To learn more about support groups offered in the United States, click here. To read more about support groups offered in Canada and other countries around the world, click herehere and here.

Read more about miscarriage here, here, and here.

Read ASRM’s fact sheet on recurrent pregnancy loss here.

Read an article about the experience of spontaneous pregnancy loss after IVF here.

To read about Beyonce Knowles’ experience of miscarriage, click here.

Resources: 

A Silent Sorrow: Pregnancy Loss – Guidance and Support for You and Your Family (2nd Edition) (2000) by Ingrid Kohn & Perry-Lynn Moffitt

I never held you: Miscarriage, grief, healing and recovery (2006) by Ellen Dubois & Linda Backman (PhD)

Surviving miscarriage: You are not alone (2005) by Stacy McLaughlin (PhD)

A guide for fathers: When a baby dies (2004) by Tim Nelson

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