The issue of miscarriage

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to. It’s not for them”. – Joubert Botha

It is a subject matter which is not readily discussed in public; however, for many couples and single women, having a miscarriage is a reality. Women who have lost a child through a miscarriage often speak about the trauma they struggle with as well as the self-blame which accompanies this painful and at times life changing event.

There are many myths associated with having a miscarriage. One such is that a miscarriage is caused by a stressful event or lifting a heavy object. It has become common place in many societies for people to offer help to pregnant women to carry objects for them. However, there is little evidence to suggest that a miscarriage is linked to a mother’s physical activity or emotional state.

There is a tendency to believe that pregnant women are fragile and helpless beings. However, nothing can be further from the truth. We should not allow this perception, however, to prevent us from offering assistance to pregnant mothers wherever possible.

Another myth which is popular is that nothing can be done to lessen the pain of a miscarriage. We all know that knowledge is power and knowing why a miscarriage happens can assist immensely in facilitating many women to let go of the thought that they are responsible for the loss.

At times, professional counselling is highly recommended to help women cope with the loss of a child through miscarriage. The focus oftentimes is solely on women regarding a miscarriage and we ignore and or discount the pain that men also experience in such situations.

Men generally grieve differently from women and tend to suppress their feelings about the loss of a baby. Usually men may show their tougher side to either be supportive of their wives or partners. However, the suppression of one’s emotion is not the answer to this growing problem. 

Miscarriage is a medical term used to describe a pregnancy which ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. Studies reveal than between 10 to 25 per cent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage.

Pregnancy is often an exciting time. On the other hand, in this time of joy, there is always the possibility of a miscarriage. Studies show that most miscarriages occur during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

The reason for a miscarriage is varied and very often the cause cannot be identified. However, during the first trimester, the most common cause is chromosomal abnormality which means something is not correct with the baby’s chromosomes.

The age of the expectant mother is another factor. Women under the age of 35 have a 15 per cent chance of having a miscarriage, as against women 45 and older who have a 50 per cent chance.

Many couples struggle with the issue of infertility so, once a pregnancy occurs, it’s a time for celebration. Given the society in which we live, women who are unable to have children are often ridiculed. Many of these women often experience bouts of depression as they face the sad reality that motherhood in its biological definition is not for every woman. 

According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, among women who had one previous miscarriage or stillbirth, 13 per cent were experiencing symptoms of depression almost three years later. Approximately 19 per cent of women who had two previous pregnancy losses, were still depressed after 33 months.

Grief and sadness are not gender specific. Notwithstanding this, as a society we need to show more compassion and give support where possible to those families who have been impacted by miscarriage. Childlessness is a serious and complex issue and not much support is given to those women who find themselves in that category. 

Men who have not fathered a child also face the discrimination associated with childlessness. They are often teased, jeered at and encouraged to be unfaithful to their spouse or partner since it’s often the belief that it is the woman who is at fault.

Conversely, men can and do have low sperm count which can render them unable to impregnate a woman naturally. Fortunately, medical breakthroughs have made it possible for men and women with fertility issues to have children. Therefore, no man or woman should feel hopeless. However, these in vitro-fertilization (IVF) procedures can be quite costly and exclude a significant section of the populace.

It can be argued that no one can truly know what it feels like to have a miscarriage or a stillbirth until and unless you have had that experience. Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and co-founder of Facebook, disclosed some time ago that he and his wife Priscilla had three miscarriages before they finally had their daughter.

Their experiences and willingness to share such a personal matter with the public have served to peel away the threads of misconception usually associated with the tabooed subject of miscarriage. It will require more public discourse in order to empower more people to share with others about their private journey regarding this most unfortunate and traumatic experience.

In the words of the unknown author, “I fell in love with you when you were forming in my womb; now I carry you in my heart instead of my arms”.

(Wayne Campbell is a Jamaican educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. 
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