October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. Did you know 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage? Many of these losses occur in the first trimester, before anyone else is even aware that you are pregnant. While most people never tell anyone or only tell a few people that they have experienced a loss, that does not make losing a baby any less painful to go through.
I still remember the first pregnancy we lost. We had been trying to have a baby for some time and finally got a positive test. Within a couple of weeks, our excitement turned to grief when we realized we had lost the baby. In the midst of my busy last year of residency, it felt like there was no time to process what was happening. When I confided in one of my favorite attending physicians, she didn’t ask any questions. She just gave me a hug and told me I could come to her office any time. I am still so grateful for her kindness and understanding. While I did speak to a few close friends and family members after that, I wish I had reached out to others close to me for support at that time as well.
Everyone’s experience with pregnancy loss is different – the amount of grief and how it affects each person or family varies. If you have experienced infertility or a pregnancy loss and need help healing, processing, and moving forward, please reach out for help and support from your loved ones, support systems in your community, or your healthcare providers.
If a family member or friend loses a pregnancy, it is often difficult to know what to say or how to help. Expressing sympathy for their loss, letting them know you are there for them, and offering help (such as dropping off a meal or helping in other ways that are meaningful for your loved one) are good places to start. Often just having someone there to listen or spend time with is more helpful than anything else.
At times, well meaning attempts to make someone feel better can actually make them feel worse in this situation as well. As a general rule of thumb, if you would not say something to soothe a person who is dealing with the death of a close relative, do not say it to someone who has experienced a miscarriage. Some of the phrases that we heard after our losses that were not helpful included:
- “At least you know you can get pregnant.”
- “You can always try again.”
- “This pregnancy wasn’t meant to be.” or “Everything happens for a reason.” or other statements that try to minimize the loss