I always find it a curiosity that so many people do not take a miscarriage as seriously or as sympathetically as a death. But a new survey carried out in the US shows that two-thirds (66%) of men and women who have experienced a miscarriage say that it carries the emotional equivalent to losing a child.
I’m amazed it is only two-thirds. A treasured, hoped-for life has been lost. The plans for the future have been scuppered. The rounded belly of impending motherhood has been punctured. And then comes the shame of failure, the sadness of lost hope, and the blame and guilt for what they could have done differently.
“Miscarriage is a traditionally taboo subject that is rarely discussed publicly,” says Dr Williams, director of the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (PEARL) at Montefiore and Einstein and assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women’s Health and Department of Genetics at Einstein. “We initiated this study to understand the perceptions of miscarriage and to open the lines of communication about this common complication, which is often shrouded by secrecy.”
One of the key study findings is that so many mothers-to-be blame themselves for the miscarriage, especially if they’ve lifted a heavy object (64%) or felt themselves subjected to too much stress (76%). Almost a quarter (23%) believed that their ambivalent feelings around their pregnancy could cause a termination. However, the survey has shown that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 60-80% are due to chromosomal abnormalities.
Dr Williams added: “The false perceptions and lack of understanding about miscarriage are significant, and contribute to many women and couples feeling isolated and alone after suffering from a miscarriage.”
In my experience, it’s the hidden nature of miscarriage that hurts most. Friends get tired of hearing about it, or don’t know how to respond, because they feel that no ‘actual’ baby has been lost and they don’t understand how you can still be hurting. But losing a baby that is a few weeks’ old in the womb can feel just as devastating as losing a ‘born’ child.
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