The reality of a miscarriage is a devastating one for couples.
The most common issue among couples who've experienced this kind of loss and grief is that they blame themselves for what happened - and it can become a source of tension in their relationships and in their lives.
Counselling psychologist, Althea Sherry, says "guilt and blame are common feelings arising from a miscarriage. Both partners might wonder if there was something that they could have done to prevent the miscarriage. Women, in particular, may feel that their body is at fault." If feelings like this are not resolved, they might cause a rift between couples.
Understanding the miscarriage
Gynaecologist and obstetrician, Dr Joanne Pottow says that most miscarriages that occur in the early stages of a pregnancy happen either because the genetic makeup of the embryo was not normal, or because the women's immune system has rejected the embryo. "Your body has a way of trying to make sure that you have a healthy, happy baby," she says. "A lot of the time it realises earlier on that something's not right," and that's when a miscarriage occurs.
She goes on to say that women are generally born with abnormal eggs in their ovaries, and that miscarriages occur because, more often than not, it is a genetic abnormality that your body is avoiding. "It is quite normal for a woman to ovulate an abnormal egg, but the point is it shouldn't grow; it shouldn't fertilise or implant itself in the uterus. Sometimes it does all these things and the woman falls pregnant with an abnormal embryo," she explains, which the body then miscarries.
Even if and when it is a genetic mishap, Dr Joanne advises that couples should consult a doctor in order to figure out what the exact cause of the miscarriage may be. From this, couples can, with the help of a doctor, treat the reasons behind the miscarriage as best as possible.
Understanding your partner
Dealing with the physical symptoms and causes of a miscarriage may not enough to get past the loss and the emotional trauma.
It is during this time that couples also need to deal with the psychological impacts of the miscarriage - both on themselves as a couple and as individuals. Althea says "in many cases, women do tend to feel a deeper connection to the baby before it is born, as they are the ones who are physically connected to the baby. As a result, it can lead to a stronger response."
In the same breath, the woman carrying the baby is not the only person who suffers a great loss. Although women are impacted directly due to the fact that they tend to blame themselves and their bodies for the loss, it is a given that her partner and their families will be greatly affected as well. "In some cases, the partner feels that they have to be strong, and may struggle to find the space to engage with how they feel."
Both partners should give each other the opportunity to grieve the loss and express their hurts after the miscarriage.
Althea advises that the couple need to communicate clearly and sincerely, and not turn to isolation after the loss. "Both partners should take the time to discuss the loss with each other, and mention how they are really feeling. They also need to listen to each other, and try to see one another’s perspective." Understanding how and what your partner feels is crucial. While women may feel at fault and blame their bodies and what they did or didn't do, their partners are likely to feel the same thing, and thus communication and compassion are necessary.
Here's what to do
Don't play the blame-game - it's no one's fault
Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl, who is personally familiar with the grief of a miscarriage, says that the one thing she wishes she had known at the time she miscarried was that it was not her fault. This is a common thread in couples who experience this kind of loss - they wonder if they could've prevented it or if it was a result of something they did or didn't do.
Stop: don't blame yourselves or each other. The best thing to do is to see a doctor and find out what they reason(s) may be. This gives you both some closure and a way forward in terms of treating the problem and trying again for another baby.
3. There is a lot of guilt and self-blame as one tries to figure out what went wrong. It is important to get as many answers as you can from your doctor or nurse clinician. Helps with closure. I am fortunate because of my medical background. I understood my #miscarriage— Sindisiwe van Zyl ???????? (@sindivanzyl) September 13, 2018
Take care of your mental health
"I was already in therapy for depression [when I miscarried] so I spoke about it a lot with my therapist," Dr Sindi tells us. In addition to therapy, she adds that her husband was supportive. Whether you speak to your partner, your family, or your therapist, you need to ensure that you're not suppressing your emotions but working through them - individually and together.
"For couples," Althea says, "you are each other’s main support system, so it’s very important to share how you feel. It’s also important to understand that although your behaviours may be different, a lot of the underlying feelings are similar. If you have family or friends who you can be honest with, then it is good to have a space where you can share your feelings."
Prepare yourselves before trying again
How quickly a couple tries again for a baby after a miscarriage is entirely up to them, but when you eventually decide to, it's best to be prepared for it. As Dr Joanne advises, you need to consult with a doctor to not only find out what the cause of the miscarriage was, but also what you can do to safely try for another baby. Often, the medical reasons behind a pregnancy can be treated and monitored to ensure that the next pregnancy is be a successful one.
5. If you do fall pregnant again and you choose not to share any details about your pregnancy THAT IS OKAY. It does not mean that you do not have faith about the outcome of the pregnancy. It is your choice. If you want to keep it a secret until you pop - so be it. ??????— Sindisiwe van Zyl ???????? (@sindivanzyl) September 13, 2018
If you are single or have to cope with a miscarriage alone, you may want to reach out to a mental health practitioner for help.
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