Very sadly, in some circumstances a pregnancy will not survive. When a baby is lost before 24 weeks of pregnancy, this is called a miscarriage. They can occur for a variety of often unidentified reasons, and may affect you and your partner in different ways
Why does it happen?
Miscarriages happen for a wide variety of reasons. In most cases, a baby lost to miscarriage has a problem in the chromosomes, such as extra chromosomes or missing genes that cause the baby to stop developing and eventually to be miscarried. So the short answer is that most times, miscarriage occurs totally outside of the control of the expectant mother.
But both physically and emotionally, miscarriage means much more than the textbook definition. There are strong physical and emotional impacts to a couple who experience miscarriage.
What are the symptoms of a miscarriage?
- Physical Symptoms. The most obvious signs are period-like pains and heavy bleeding, which may include blood clots. However, it is possible to miscarry without knowing, especially very early in pregnancy. Many women mistake a miscarriage for a late period. Sometimes there are no symptoms as the embryo just stops developing and so the miscarriage may not be discovered until a scan.
- Emotional Symptoms. Losing a baby can have some very strong emotional impact. The physical emptiness a mum feels, will also be magnified by an emotional emptiness too. There will be grief and sadness. There may be feelings of guilt or of failure. You may both feel fearful about becoming pregnant again, Feeling some or all of these things is not unusual following a miscarriage.
Coping with the loss of a pregnancy
The impact of losing a pregnancy can be hard for you both, as you both suffer from the emotions of losing the pregnancy.
How will my partner cope?
All women cope in different ways.
For many women there is deep shock and intense sadness at losing the life growing inside them, and it can take a while to get over it. Some go through the classic stages of bereavement - shock and emptiness, anger, sadness, depression and finally acceptance.
Some women blame themselves – they might feel they did something wrong, or if their body has let them down. It is not her fault and it is important to reassure her of this.
How can I support her?
- Don’t disappear. Some men respond by keeping busy, burying themselves in their work or another project, which can be misinterpreted by your partner as not caring. This is not the time to retreat.
- Don’t try to fix it. While it might be tempting to suggest trying for another baby to fill the void, your partner may not be ready for this. It also won’t fill the void left by losing this baby, this one was unique and special. Give your partner time to talk to you about how she feels and let her know its ok to feel sad, don’t try and fix the problem.
- Listen to her. Your partner will often feel the loss of a child more keenly that you will. So take the time to sit with her, hold her, listen to her express herself. Just being there and supporting her through her grief will really help her process the experience.
- Offer hugs without expectation. Physical affection is a normal way of offering support and closeness. Hugs, kisses and sex are all ways you and your partner might keep close. However, these things might all act as a reminder to her of how you created the baby you lost, so she may also shy away from physical affection. Don’t take this personally, and allow her time to work through her grief in her way.
How should I deal with my grief?
Dad’s bond with their unborn babies too, and have dreams of teaching them to ride a bike and seeing them grow up. A miscarriage therefore often brings grief for us too, as it is our baby too which we have lost. We can be in a difficult position of grieving for our own loss while trying to support our partner through her own profound sense of hurt, as well as any physical changes or medical appointments she also has to go through.
When something goes wrong, typically us men want to try and fix it and make it better. But a miscarriage cannot be fixed. This realisation will often leave us feeling powerless and hopeless.
It can be helpful to try and talk about how you feel. If doing this with a friend doesn’t feel right, why not try writing them down, even if you don’t show anyone what you write. Sometimes the act of saying how we feel is a way of starting to come to terms with it.
For support from other dads who have been in a similar position visit our Dad Info Forum.