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A miscarriage (sometimes called pregnancy loss) is when a fetus dies before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
If your partner doesn’t know how long she’s been pregnant, the doctors will say she’s had a miscarriage if the fetus weighs less than 400 gm.
Miscarriage is common, but it’s hard to say exactly how often it happens. This is because many miscarriages happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Around 15-20% of confirmed pregnancies are miscarried.
Miscarriage happens for many different reasons. Usually it’s because the fetus isn’t developing properly. Once a miscarriage begins, no medical treatment can stop it.
The miscarriage really came as a surprise the first time. It was after six weeks and it was a blighted ovum, which means that the fetus had stopped growing at 2-3 weeks.
– Marcus, father of one
Sharing grief about miscarriage
You and your partner are likely to feel very sad, helpless and distressed if your doctor tells you that the fetus has died.
Most likely, your partner’s body had begun to change and she had started to think of herself as a mother. You might have started to think about being a dad. Instead, you’re faced with loss and grief.
But because most miscarriages happen in the first 12 weeks, some women don’t know they’re pregnant. Even if you both knew, you might not have shared the news with others. This can make the grief more complicated.
Many people don’t have rituals or ceremonies to help them with the grief of miscarriage. It can also be hard to talk about miscarriage with other people.
It’s OK if you decide to put on a ‘brave face’, but people might not realise that you’re going through a lot of grief.
Many people find that it does help to tell others. You could let close friends and family know what your baby meant to you, what support you need and how much you want to share your experience. If you don’t feel like talking, you could consider sharing it in writing.
Supporting your partner after miscarriage
Although miscarriage is a loss for both of you, it happened physically to your partner. If your partner keeps bleeding for days or weeks after the miscarriage, it’s normal for her to feel that it’s still happening.
Your partner is also likely to be in a raw emotional state. She might have formed a special relationship with the growing baby. She could have done little things like patting her tummy or speaking to her fetus.
Simply being there for your partner by listening and giving her ‘a shoulder to cry on’ is often what women want most from their partners.
The only thing I thought was just to let my wife take her time with the grieving process instead of trying to rush it and be overly positive – which I think you tend to do as the husband or the partner. In a relationship, you tend to really focus on the positive straight away.
– Marcus, father of one
Caring for her, caring for yourself
Some men feel as though they have to hide what they’re going through so they can be there for their partner.
But you both need time and support.
Try to make time to do activities you both enjoy, like something you usually find relaxing or rewarding as a couple. This can help nurture your relationship and create some positive feelings.
I suppose I could never understand that physical loss, to have life inside you and then to lose it. To somehow feel partially responsible even though you’re not. My wife was ‘to the book’ – she didn’t touch alcohol, and she geared her diet so strictly. To this day I still don’t feel that I was able to do enough for her.
– Marcus, father of one
Trying for another pregnancy
You or your partner might be keen to start trying to get pregnant again. You could also feel pressure from family, friends or colleagues about trying for another baby.
Grieving and recovery don’t happen overnight, and the process is different for everyone. If you try again straight away, your grief might be put ‘on hold’ as you focus on the new pregnancy.
It could take some time to get pregnant again. If this happens, any thoughts of fear, failure and disappointment might get worse. If you’re using IVF, you might both need to take some time to build up your strength before starting another cycle.
Getting help with grief
Eventually most parents find their way out of grief, or at least feel less consumed by grief. Your life keeps going, but you will probably be changed – sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.
If you’ve focused entirely on your partner, you can take a very positive step by taking time to explore your own feelings. Tune into what you’re going through, and talk with your partner or someone else you trust about it.
If you or your partner feel you aren’t coping or are feeling depressed, you might need professional help. See your GP or a counsellor.
You could also call MensLine on 1300 789 978 or the Bereavement Information and Referral Service on 1300 664 786.
People tend to forget the male partner. When somebody has two or three miscarriages, it’s the woman who breaks down. She starts crying and she’s very upset. Sometimes women end up with psychological problems. But not many people look into the effect it has on the male partner.
– Male obstetrician and father
Things you can do
- If you need to tell your story or share what you’re going through, ask for the support of trusted friends and family.
- If you feel you’re not coping, you’re feeling depressed or your relationship is under a lot of stress, see your GP, a counsellor or a community spiritual leader, if you have one.
- Give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. Grief isn’t a hurdle to get over or something that will go away if you ignore it. It’s an individual process that happens over time.
- Say yes to practical help from others – you don’t have to go it alone.