One in four women who know they’re pregnant have experienced a miscarriage. So let’s start talking about it.
Finding out you’re pregnant is often an emotional roller coaster. Whether you’ve been actively trying to grow your family or have discovered a pregnancy as a surprise, it’s normal to feel everything from joy and excitement to shock and stress.
No matter what you’re feeling, one of the most common emotions associated with discovering a pregnancy is the fear of miscarriage. This is especially true for the one in eight couples who report struggling with infertility or have problems sustaining a healthy pregnancy.
What’s a Miscarriage?
The Mayo Clinic defines miscarriage as the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation. Miscarriage affects one in four pregnancies, with a majority of losses happening within the first 12 weeks. The risk of miscarriage lowers to 5 percent after the second trimester when a woman is 13 to 19 weeks pregnant. Many experts believe miscarriage is even more common than current statistics reflect. This is because many women miscarry without realizing it, often mistaking a very early miscarriage as a late, heavy period.
Just because early pregnancy loss is normal doesn’t make miscarriage any easier. “Although every woman knows that pregnancy comes with risk, you can’t help but imagine your life around the news that you’re expecting,” says Shauna King, the national director for Doula Canada.
As a certified doula and childbirth educator, she provides emotional and practical support for parents in pregnancy, labour, and postpartum. Although doulas don’t offer medical and surgical care, they provide nurturing advice and psychological support that your OBGYN doesn’t.
What to expect when you’re miscarrying
The most common signs of miscarriage include cramping and pelvic pain, followed by spotting or bleeding. Despite common misconceptions, most miscarriages aren’t because of stress, exercise or sex.
In the first trimester, miscarriage often happens because the fertilized egg isn’t developing in the uterus, typically due to abnormal genes or chromosomes. Early can rarely be stopped, but it’s always best to call your OBGYN or regular health professional if you suspect you’re miscarrying to rule out implantation bleeding.
Women experiencing an early miscarriage can expect heavy bleeding for one to two weeks, with fluid and tissue passing from your vagina. If possible, keep any passed tissue in a clear container for your doctor to test. Visit an ER if you’re experiencing extremely heavy bleeding, pain, fever or foul-smelling discharge. Sometimes a procedure called a dilation and curettage, which removes tissue from inside your uterus is required.
It’s also important to remember that studies show that miscarriages often don’t determine the possibility of a healthy pregnancy in the future.
The impact of miscarriage on men
Of course, women aren’t the only ones who mourn the loss of a pregnancy. The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPA) acknowledges miscarriage can be a profoundly devastating event for all family members. Men experiencing the impact of their partner’s miscarriage also report feelings of grief and distress, although not in the same way women do.
Research shows men impacted by miscarriage and early pregnancy loss try to minimize their sadness and mental wellness to support their partners. It’s also common for men to indulge in increased risk behaviours like drinking, smoking and drug use after a miscarriage, a 2017 study published in The BMC Pregnancy Childbirth journal reports.
Sharing your miscarriage story
Although miscarriage is so normal, it’s understandably a sensitive and personal subject for many people. Those who share their recent miscarriage experience with friends and family are surprised to hear their loved ones experience with early pregnancy loss, King explains.
On the other hand, many people who have never gone through a similar loss might not understand the complexity of grief miscarriage brings. If you experienced a miscarriage and feel that your loved one’s comfort words aren’t helpful to your healing, know you’re not alone.
“It’s so common for people to share their miscarriage story, only for them to hear things like: ‘try again in a few months’ or ‘at least you already have a child,’” King says. “People are trying to be sympathetic but often don’t realize saying those things can often be hurtful for those experiencing early pregnancy loss.”
If this is the case for you, understand your loved ones likely aren’t trying to dismiss your grief. King explains that chances are they’re trying to be sympathetic and helpful but might not know how to navigate the discomfort of such a loss.
Anyone who experiences miscarriage needs empathy, she shares. Each person’s situation is unique, and often the most helpful thing anyone can do is listen to their story and ask them what they need.
If you or someone you love is suffering from a miscarriage’s grief, know that what you’re going through is normal, and help is out there.
Ask your doctor or healthcare professional about miscarriage support resources in your area or speak to a therapist or licensed mental health professional.
More Insight: Check out this helpful article on staying fit through pregnancy.
Author: Angela Serednicki is a Toronto-based lifestyle writer who’s passionate about inspiring readers to prioritize health, happiness, and creativity in their lives.