Have you or someone you know had a pregnancy loss? You might be surprised to know that 10-20% of pregnancies end in loss of the baby (according to Mayo Clinic). While not surprising is the fact we don’t openly talk about this piece of the human experience, it's these very experiences that need to be addressed out in the open in order to normalize it. Losing pregnancy can bring up feelings of guilt, shame, self-doubt, and increased anxiety. The more that this topic is spoken about openly, the more we heal and healthily cope.
The goal for this particular blog will be to share some statistics and provide psychoeducation around this loss. Hopefully this will spark conversations around reproductive issues, navigating pregnancies, sorting out parenthood, and increase both self-compassion and compassion for others’ pregnancy journeys.
Some important stats to keep in mind (from World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, March of Dimes, National Centre for Miscarriage Research):
- Every year 2 million babies are stillborn across the world
- 84% of stillbirths occur in low and lower-middle income countries
- Each year 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States
- Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester
- About 1 in 100 women have repeat miscarriages
- 20% of women who experience a miscarriage become symptomatic for depression and/or anxiety
- Miscarriages double the risk for depression and quadruple the risk of suicide
Let’s do some psychoeducation on terminology (according to the Cleveland Clinic, Meghan Holohan/Today):
Miscarriage: loss of pregnancy prior to 20 weeks
Stillbirth/Stillborn: loss of pregnancy after 20 weeks
Pregnancy Loss: loss of a baby any time during the pregnancy
Rainbow Pregnancy/Rainbow Baby: Pregnancy and baby after pregnancy loss
Sunshine Baby: A child born before a pregnancy loss
TTC: Acronym for “Trying to conceive”
It is extremely important for the person who has lost the baby to communicate openly with their doctors. Patients should be followed up to a year post-loss. Support groups, psychiatrists and psychotherapists can be very helpful during this time to combat PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety.
What can you do? Turn to your support system. If you have a partner, connect with them. Talk about what has happened and how you feel. While difficult to talk about, it is far better than just pushing it down and forging ahead. The partner who was not carrying the pregnancy will likely have their own set of emotional and mental effects stemming from the loss. Open communication continues to be key.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel about this. There’s no right or wrong way to move forward. Stages of grief (Kubler-Ross) will likely occur. Working closely with your medical and mental health providers will help increase awareness to what you’re experiencing and provide coping strategies.
Tell only people you feel comfortable telling. Don’t tell people you don’t feel comfortable telling. It is your business, and you can determine who are safe people to share your experience with. Just seek those people out.
Different terminology works for different people. Note if there is language being used around this loss that is triggering for you. You may want to share with others what wording is least triggering for you.
Things to remember:
- It’s not your fault.
- It’s ok to be angry.
- It’s ok to feel sad.
- It’s ok to ask for help.
- You are not alone.
Some parting thoughts - While pregnancy loss is not necessarily uncommon, each person’s experience with it is truly unique. Remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. Seek out others who will walk along side you on this journey. Take one day at a time.
Meghan Reitz, LCPC, NCC, has worked within the counseling profession for over 19 years. Her therapist experience includes providing individual, couples, family, group, and crisis counseling. She also speaks with companies and groups on mental health and wellness topics. Learn more about Meghan here.