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Talking about Miscarriage

It's time to break the silence: Examining the stigma behind miscarriage.

October 16, 2019

Having a miscarriage is a tragic experience that is unfortunately relatively common. But given that as many as half of all pregnancies could end in miscarriage, why is there still such a palpable social stigma that surrounds losing your baby? 

While there’s no straightforward answer to this question, in this article, we’ll explore possible explanations and what’s being done to reverse the stigma. Keep reading to find out:

  • The social factors could be causing parents to suffer in silence
  • Why it’s important to talk about miscarriage 

Why the Stigma?

Ignorance

As is the case with many stigmas, ignorance might be one of the reasons we’re afraid to talk about miscarriage. A great deal of people—including prospective parents—don’t realize that losing a baby during pregnancy, especially early on in the pregnancy, is a very real possibility, even if the parents do everything right. 

Mismanaging a pregnancy (i.e. drinking, smoking, using drugs) can indeed result in miscarriage, yet in most instances, the causes are unknown or an unpreventable medical complication is to blame. 

Common causes of miscarriage
One step toward ending the stigma around miscarriage is education. Knowing the facts is important for everyone—not just people who want to be parents. Image courtesy of Parents

This ignorance is a toxic component in our widespread understanding of pregnancy because it can make parents feel responsible for something that they had no control over. Likewise, they might avoid telling others that they have suffered a miscarriage for fear of being blamed. 

Not Knowing How to Navigate Grief

Grief is a difficult emotion, both to experience yourself and to see in someone you care about. As humans, we tend to avoid things that make us uncomfortable, which means we don’t like talking about sad events and dealing with grief. 

When it comes to miscarriage, there’s no wrong way to feel. But grief is a frequent—not to mention understandable—reaction to losing your baby. Parents grieving a miscarriage might want to save others discomfort, and as a result, they won’t tell anyone that they’ve lost their baby. Partners might not even want to talk about it with each other. 

That being said, if you don’t want to tell family and friends you or your partner has had a miscarriage, you absolute don’t have to. But you also shouldn’t feel obligated not to talk about it because you don’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable. 

On the other side of things, if someone you know has had a miscarriage, you might not know what to say. While there’s no right thing to say, there’s a lot of wrong things to say—so the best route to go is to apologize for their loss and try to support them the best that you can. 

Things not to say when someone's had a miscarriage
It’s easy to come off as insensitive without meaning to. Here are some things you definitely shouldn’t say to someone who’s had a miscarriage. Image courtesy of CBC

Sharing Your Experience Could Help Someone Else

According to Monica Starkman, M.D., a psychiatrist from the University of Michigan, the silence surrounding miscarriage is deeply rooted in personal shame and a lack of social support. 

Hearing stories of other parents’ experiences with miscarriage can help someone else feel less alone. In an attempt to normalize talking about miscarriage, some celebrities and public figures have come forward by speaking about their own miscarriages. 

Meghan McCain published an opinion piece in The New York Times titled, “What I Learned from My Miscarriage.” In it, she writes, “I had a miscarriage. I loved my baby, and I always will. To the end of my days I will remember this child and whatever children come will not obscure that.” 

Similarly, Mark Zuckerburg shared he and his wife’s past experiences with miscarriage in a Facebook post announcing their pregnancy in 2015. The post reads, “It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you—as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.” 

Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Pink are a few of the other celebrities who have talked publicly about suffering a miscarriage. Image courtesy of SELF

Hopefully, these admissions will continue to fuel a dialogue about miscarriage and break the stigma the surrounds it. 

No Right Way to Cope

It’s important to deal with your miscarriage in a way that feels natural to you. You don’t have to announce the loss of your baby to the world, but it’s important that you talk to someone about it, whether that be your partner, a friend, or a therapist. 

That being said, don’t try to hold yourself back from talking about your experience. In order to stop the current stigma, we as a society need to acknowledge that miscarriage is a very real, albeit unfortunate, part of pregnancy. Just remember that while there’s no right way to cope with miscarriage, suffering in silence isn’t the answer either. 

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