Pregnancy, Infant Loss, Infertility: How to support someone who has experienced loss or infertility.
Pregnancy & infant loss often appear as a taboo topic due to not many people discussing their experience with loss and how it impacted them. There are support groups, social media pages, and podcasts were created to break the stigma and silence surrounded around pregnancy/ infant loss and infertility (Mind Your Own Womb, Shaniya's Gift, My Transparent Moments, Sisters in Loss, Infertility & Me Podcast, Tiny Hearts Remembered, Inc.)
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women will experience pregnancy loss via miscarriage, abortion, stillbirth. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 birthing people elect to get an abortion by the age of 45. According to the CDC, about 1 pregnancy in 100 at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later is affected by stillbirth, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage can be defined as a spontaneous loss of the fetus or embryo before it has had an opportunity to survive before 20 weeks of gestation via blighted ovum or natural causes.
What is an abortion?
An abortion can be defined as is a procedure to end a pregnancy. Medical professionals use medication or surgery to remove the embryo or fetus and placenta from the uterus.
What is a stillbirth?
A stillbirth can be defined as the loss of a baby at 20 weeks of gestation and after. Some babies make it to their due date and are birthed stillborn.
What is infertility?
Infertility can be defined as the inability to conceive children via primary or secondary infertility. Primary infertility is the inability to conceive naturally. Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive after previously having children. Explained infertility comes with a diagnosis of a particular reason why a person is not conceiving naturally (i.e. fibroids, ovarian cysts). Unexplained infertility may not have a specific cause as to why a person can't conceive.
What can be done?
The causes of pregnancy loss and stillbirths are unknown. Pregnancy loss and stillbirth occurs in families of all races, ethnicities, and income levels, and to women of all ages. But there are things that a birthing person can do before and during pregnancy to increase their chance of having a healthy baby:
Be sure that medical conditions, such as fibroids, ovarian cysts, high blood pressure, and diabetes, are under control before and during pregnancy.
Avoid smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Strive to reach and maintain a healthy weight before pregnancy.
Stages of grief & loss:
Denial - you go into shock with your diagnosis of pregnancy loss or infertility.
Anger - you may not know/understand how to navigate your feelings/emotions.
Bargaining - you make lifestyle changes to "cure" your diagnosis.
Sadness - you experience intense feelings, even depression.
Acceptance - you acknowledge your feelings and attempt to process how you feel in a positive manner.
What can you do/say if someone you know has experienced pregnancy infant loss?
Be a listening ear.
Don't be dismissive of a person's feelings towards loss.
Don't offer unsolicited advice or comments.
Be aware the grief has no timeline and the pregnancy/infant loss can impact someone years later.
Encourage the grief be expressed via journaling, therapy, or talking with friends/family.
Understand that grief has physical AND emotional reactions (i.e. depression, weight loss, self harm).
Reassure your friend or family member that their feelings towards loss are normal.
Be mindful that words hurt (i.e. It was God's timing, Maybe it wasn't meant to be, God took your baby for a reason, You aren't meant to be a parent), and if you're not sure of what to say, don't say anything.