Having a miscarriage is not your fault
As an OB/GYN, I am so lucky that I get to spend the majority of my time doing the “happy part” of medicine: seeing the excited look on a woman’s face when I confirm that she really is pregnant, showing her the first flicker of a heartbeat on an ultrasound, and placing her wriggly newborn on her tummy after she worked so hard for hours to deliver her first child.
But there’s the other side, too. The side where I have to tell a woman that her pregnancy hormone levels have dropped or that there is no heartbeat on an ultrasound and that what she is experiencing is a miscarriage.
I’ve done it so many times now that I have a script in my head that I always try to draw from. I review how common miscarriage is (about 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and this number is only what is reported), that there is nothing that could have prevented it, and that there is no right way to feel about this loss.
What’s sad is that a new study has shown that most people have wildly inaccurate misconceptions about miscarriage, and this can have so many devastating effects on how a couple copes with it and processes their grief.
The study showed that the majority of people think miscarriage is rare—happening in less than 5 percent of pregnancies. Totally untrue! Also, according to this study, people also think stress, heavy lifting, and having an argument can cause a pregnancy loss. None of this is correct, and to shoulder the belief that an argument you had with your spouse caused you to lose your baby is one of the worst— and completely unnecessary—kinds of guilt to bear.
Adding to the confusion and feeling of sadness and guilt is that so many women wait to disclose their pregnancies until the second trimester, when the risk of a miscarriage dramatically drops. But this means that women who miscarry sooner often have no one to lean on for support. It’s implied that this should just be kept hush-hush, that no one wants to hear you cry about a baby who was only a few weeks old that you never met, and that you should just get pregnant again and you’ll feel better.
All of that is so not helpful, and very untrue. It only perpetuates the idea that miscarriage is uncommon, when in reality, I guarantee you know a woman who has had a miscarriage, she just hasn’t told you.
This study showed that 46 percent of women felt less alone when they talked to friends and family about their miscarriage. So what would be best for women experiencing this very common complication of pregnancy?
I think back to my script, which I think needs to be taken seriously. Miscarriage is common. Miscarriage almost always is unavoidable—if it was going to happen, it was going to happen. You might feel sad, angry, guilty, relieved, none of the above, all of the above. You should process it how you want: keep it quiet; tell everyone; tell only your best friend.
At the end of the day, let’s not keep miscarriage in the corner of taboo topics to talk about. Let’s help women realize they aren’t alone.