The chilly day meets a gathering of women sitting in a circle, all dressed up in uppity ensembles and chatting away. All the phony smiles were a facade, masking their judgmental and competitive spirits. Jane had just had a miscarriage after announcing her pregnancy on social media. She has become a shadow of herself, and the ladies, rather than being empathetic, have sharpened their gossip swords. This is just one scenario of what often occurs. While dealing with the loss of a child, the extra myths about miscarriages can be equally burdensome.
The crazy part of this experience is that 1 in 4 pregnancies end up in a miscarriage, with the risks higher in the first trimester. If this is the case, then why do we sweep it under the rock like an alien happenstance, rather than treat it as a topic of concern, where we all share experiences and heal together?
Factors that increase the risk of miscarriages
● Fetal issues: Over half of the miscarriages occur due to missing or extra chromosomes in the fetus. There are cases of a blighted ovum, intrauterine fetal demise, molar pregnancy, and more. This occurs by chance and is not inherited from the parents.
● Age: Although age is a factor, the percentage of mothers above 35 who give birth to healthy babies is still higher. Studies have shown that 1 in 400 women above 35 experience a miscarriage, compared to 1 in 1500 women below 35. Advancing in age could also lead to poor egg quality, which is why egg freezing is advised.
Previous miscarriage: This case depends on the reason behind the previous pregnancy loss. If you have had at least 2 miscarriages in a row, the risks are higher, and it’s advised to see a gynecologist. This doesn’t wholly signify that once a miscarriage equals always a miscarriage.
Stage of pregnancy: Research shows that about 80% of miscarriages occur within the first 13 weeks. Ever heard couples prefer to announce their pregnancy after the first trimester when the risk of a miscarriage is lower? This is presumably the reason.
● Maternal complications: There are cases like hormonal imbalance, cervical/uterine issues, and infections. This is the reason why regular visits to your gynecologist are important.
Myths about miscarriages and ways to disprove them…
1. Miscarriages can always be avoided
This mindset breeds the “something must be wrong with me. I must have done something wrong”, thought. It would be a relief to share that most miscarriages occur due to chromosomal problems that hinder fetal growth, and this is outside the mother’s control.
2. We need to wait before we try again
Natural human instinct might whisper to a person/couple who just lost a baby that they need to wait and allow their body to recover before trying again. While this might seem like a logical approach, getting pregnant immediately isn’t entirely off the books. You can start trying again once you feel ready mentally, emotionally, and otherwise.
3. It’s a thing of shame
These myths about miscarriages are still a wonder to me. More women have lost pregnancies, but are unwilling to step out and talk about it. Apart from the hurt and need to heal, it would be great if more women spoke up about their miscarriage experiences. This enables more people to heal and know they are not alone.
4. A pregnancy loss is not always a big deal
This is one of the most insensitive myths about miscarriages (in my opinion). A doctor once said to me during my first trimester of pregnancy; “Oh, it’s just blood, that’s not a human yet…” Meanwhile, a mother starts bonding with her child from the day she gets the positive test result, and even if she has not physically met with the child, the sense of loss is still deep. Some parents fall into depression and should be allowed to grieve without judgment and/or pressure, or their feelings/experiences downplayed.
5. Myths about miscarriages make the experience feel like a taboo
As though experiencing a miscarriage is not enough torture for some women, they also have to deal with the burdensome stigma surrounding miscarriages. People assume the occurrence is rare, and a woman must have brought it upon herself. Career women have been blamed for being too ambitious and busy, resulting in the loss of a child. Note that basic daily activities and trivial home accidents might not affect the baby. The baby is well cushioned and protected in the womb. However, this does not encourage constant exposure to stress and/or abuse of any sort. Remember, this is not an enabler to throw caution in the air. Report any case of domestic violence or otherwise to the authorities.
Myths about miscarriages and how it affects our mental health
Sometimes, it is frustrating to try to explain the bond with someone you’ve not physically met, but feel like you’ve known forever—Does it make sense? While there are mothers who struggle to bond with their babies from the womb, and even after birth, to others, it is love from the get-go. This is a traumatic experience, which could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and/or depression. For me, months after a miscarriage, I avoided the kids’ sections at the mall, and those gender reveals? A no-no. My heart palpitated at the sight of a pregnant woman or newborn, and I couldn’t help but blame myself because; “do the other women who make it to full term have 10 heads? My body’s not working and should be fixed, why does it come easy for everyone else?” The crazy part has to be when well-meaning people feel the need to comfort a person with the “try again, you’ll get another baby soon…”. The real feeling which cannot be fully explained is this; “I don’t need another baby, I want this baby, my baby.” Heck, you probably even named the child already.
Let’s talk about the rift between couples sometimes. Maybe one person is blaming the other either outrightly or with the silent treatment; “I told you not to take that job, it was so stressful, and now you’ve lost our baby…” This isn’t always the case with every couple. Sometimes, the couple bond even deeper and become stronger. While others become irritable, fight a lot, and maybe drift apart, especially for recurrent miscarriages. If these misconceptions about miscarriages are beginning to affect your mental health significantly, it’s advised to seek professional help. Speaking to someone who isn’t judgmental might be a great step towards healing.
The relatable stories of other women concerning the myths of miscarriages…
Miscarriages are so common, yet so hidden. Almost like a taboo, not to be spoken about. The more we talk about it, the more we eradicate the stigma. If more women talk about their experiences, things will begin to loosen up.
Here are a few quotes from women who have had a pregnancy loss.
“The painful part of my experience was that the people around me couldn’t understand my pain. They said if I was more submissive to my husband, maybe I wouldn’t have lost the baby. Maybe God is trying to teach me a lesson and mold my character. Maybe my sickle cell is the reason, and they continued to pray for my womb at any given opportunity. All I needed was support from my tribe, but that didn’t happen and that deepened the sore.” ~Francisca, a 31-year-old accountant
“If you could have just rested, your husband takes care of you. Why do you still have to work so hard? Meanwhile, the doctor said it was a chromosomal issue with the fetus, and none of that was within my control.” ~Alex, a 29-year-old event planner
“‘Ask her, where she kept our baby. I put that child in you and you have killed her.’ That’s what my husband said to a total stranger about the miscarriage. He felt it was my fault and did not miss any opportunity to say it.” ~Vera, a 33-year-old social media manager.
“‘You think having one child is enough? You better resign, so you can sleep with your husband constantly until you get pregnant, and keep it till full term this time.’ My mum and her sister always had to remind me to keep my baby this time, like I was the one with the keys to my womb. I’m still holding on and staying strong, I just newly relocated with my family and we’ll keep trying to have a baby, this time–without pressure from family.” ~Helen, a 35-year-old software engineer.
“Do you know how it felt to show up on a Monday after a miscarriage to see all these children? Still, I had to keep it together. The hugs, kisses, and words from these babies broke me. I was this close to having mine again, but there’s always something to nip it right in the bud.” ~Ella, a 40-year-old pre-school teacher
These experiences are not to sadden you, but to show you that you’re not alone. If more people would open up, you could stop blaming yourself and help another woman in your situation, while fighting the myths about miscarriages. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s not your fault.
Things you shouldn’t say to a person who lost a baby
● Maybe it was not meant to be, all things work together for good.
● You’re still young, you can always have another.
● At least you know you’re fertile.
● Cheer up! At least you have other children.
Rather, you can say;
● I’m sorry this had to happen to you.
● I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to.
● There’s no timeline set on how long you should grieve. Take your time and heal. Remember, you’re not alone.
The main thing to consider when supporting a person who just lost a baby is empathy. Be genuinely concerned and do not assume anything. Ask them and don’t force out any information they are unwilling to divulge. Follow their lead, be patient, and understand it might take months or years on this journey towards healing. Advise them to get help, mentally and physically. Maybe a check-up to diagnose the cause and a professional to provide mental guidance.
Featured Image: João Paulo de Souza Oliveira | Pexels