These commonly held views might surprise you.
Discovering that you’re pregnant can be bitter sweet.
As jubilant as that wonderful baby news can be, there is a very real possibility that you could lose your baby to miscarriage, which is defined as when a baby dies during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Many women quietly wait throughout their first trimester, hoping anxiously that they won’t miscarry their baby. This can be an extremely stressful time.
There a quite a number misconceptions about miscarriages that researchers in the U.S. have addressed in a recent study, “A national survey on public perceptions of miscarriage.”
The study surveyed over 1,000 American women and men between the ages of 18-69 and found that the participants were dreadfully misinformed about miscarriage.
Here are some of the commonly held – but inaccurate – views on miscariage:
1. MYTH: Miscarriages are rare
The study found that 55% of participants believed that miscarriages only occur in 5% of pregnancies.
TRUTH: In actual fact, miscarriages are very common and sadly occur in 1 in 5 confirmed pregnancies.
2. MYTH: Stress causes miscarriages
The study found that 76% of participants believed that stress can trigger a miscarriage.
Additionally, 64% of participants believed that lifting something heavy could cause a miscarriage, and 41% believed that having a sexual transmitted infection could contribute to a miscarriage.
Offering comments like “I am so sorry for your loss” is much more supportive than saying, “You can always try again.”
Participants also believed that miscarriages could be caused by having an argument, taking oral contraceptives and drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes.
TRUTH: When women lose their baby to miscarriage they can be quick to blame themselves and look for reasons to explain their miscarriage. However in 60% of cases miscarriages occur due to the foetus having an incorrect number of chromosomes.
3. MYTH: Women don’t feel upset by a miscarriage
Due to the death of a baby being very much being a taboo subject over the years, women miscarrying their babies has been a topic often swept under the rug. Because of this, there has been a lack of understanding and empathy for their feelings.
TRUTH: The recent study revealed that 66% of respondents who had experienced a miscarriage described the impact as being as severe as losing a child who had already been born.
A further 47% of participants described feelings of guilt, 41% expressed self-blame and 38% felt they could have somehow prevented the miscarriage.
Isolation and aloneness was expressed by 41% of the study participants who had miscarried a child, and 28% reported a sense of shame.
4. MYTH: There’s no point in understanding the cause of a miscarriage
It’s not uncommon for women who’ve lost a child through miscarriage to be told such platitudes as “Sometimes these things happen,” or “It’s obviously for the best.”
However these empty statements don’t offer much in the way of comfort or closure for women (and men) who are grieving the loss of their child.
TRUTH: In the recent study 78% of the participants who had lost a child to miscarriage wanted to understand the cause of their miscarriage. Once a caused was established this helped them to understand that they weren’t to blame.
5. MYTH: Talking about a person’s miscarriage makes the grieving parent feel worse
Many people don’t know how to support a person who is grieving the loss of their baby. They feel concerned that openly discussing their loss will cause too much pain so instead the topic is ignored or avoided.
TRUTH: The greatest pain for parents grieving after a miscarriage is when their feelings go unacknowledged.
The study found that parents feel much less alone when their miscarriage is recognised as being a painful loss for them.
Offering comments like “I am so sorry for your loss” is much more supportive than saying, “You can always try again” or “At least you know you can get pregnant,” which only minimises the parents’ feelings of loss and makes them feel misunderstood.
Making a difference
After conducting their research and identifying so many misconceptions about miscarriage the researchers recognised a need for more public discussion about pregnancy loss.
They identified a need to “encourage friends and public figures to share their losses and use their stature to help combat feelings of shame, secrecy, and isolation.”
We can only hope that moving forward parents can feel supported and understood as the media, celebrities and public figures bring discussions about miscarriage into the public space and out from behind closes doors.