5 Reasons Why We Need To Talk About Losing A Baby During Pregnancy
Not just for grieving parents but also for those around them.
Being able to conceive a baby successfully is perhaps one of the blessings for couples hoping to establish a family unit. However, with pregnancy come a variety of factors that could sometimes complicate the process, leaving some if not many parents in face of the harsh reality of losing a baby during pregnancy.
While pregnancy loss is defined differently around the world, the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that a baby who dies before 28 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as a miscarriage and a baby who dies at or after 28 weeks as a stillbirth.
Although it is more common for miscarriages to be the cause of child loss during pregnancy, stillbirth account for a whopping 2.6 million of pregnancy loss around the world. However, despite the frequency of its occurrence, they remain a topic that is shunned — sometimes even among the support system of these grieving individuals.
If any, the time is now to break the silence around losing a baby, not just for grieving parents but also for those around them.
Here are five reasons why we need to talk about losing a baby during pregnancy openly—albeit with sensitivity and empathy.
Losing A Baby During Pregnancy: Why We Need To Talk About It
1. Pregnancy loss is far more common than we think
It said that most miscarriages occur during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, miscarriages account for 15 to 20 percent of recognised pregnancies (or one in five pregnancies).
That’s not considering half of all the fertilised eggs which die and are lost, usually even before a woman discovers that she is pregnant.
Stillbirths, on the other hand, could happen later in pregnancy, with one in two stillbirths occurring during labour. The silver lining, however, is that many of these deaths are preventable.
With the shocking statistics presented to us, it is clear that a large number of pregnancies may not see the light. And this is the reason why the talk about losing a baby becomes increasingly important so that these many women (or parents) don’t have to suffer in silence.
2. Grieving parents blame themselves more than you think…
Whether it is losing their baby through miscarriage or stillbirth, parents often experience feelings of shame, embarrassment, and an overwhelming sense of blame that they have let those around them down—or even perhaps their unborn baby too.
However, there are many reasons that causes such as foetal abnormalities, the mother’s age, infections and lifestyle that could have contributed to the loss, where even medical professionals have difficulty pinpointing the exact cause.
As such, grieving parents choose not to discuss the loss because they are worried about how others might perceive them and that they did something to cause this. This leads to them struggling on their own as they deal with the confusion of their loss.
3. …and that is linked to a culture of silence
When the support system of these grieving parents choose not to talk about the issue or grief—or worse—respond negatively to the news of baby loss, it compounds their feelings of stress and dejection.
“As with other health issues such as mental health, around which there is tremendous taboo still, many women report that no matter their culture, education or upbringing, their friends and family do not want to talk about their loss,” according to WHO.
When these individuals avoid talking about grief, it is akin to telling the parents that it is not okay for them to feel the way they are feeling. Thus, perpetuating the problem even further.
4. Some want to talk about it, but don’t know how or what or say
On the contrary, as far as some parents do not wish to talk about their loss of losing a baby during pregnancy, some still recognise their baby internally.
It just takes that little sensitivity and empathy for loved ones and friends to help these parents feel like they have a safe space and outlet for their thoughts and emotions.
The first step is to acknowledge how grieving parents might be feeling. There could be instances when an individual tries to say something thoughtful out of his or her own discomfort but ends up causing more hurt and stress to the parents.
One way to tackle this is to say or ask a simple question: “I’m sorry for your loss. How are you thinking about your baby?”
And this extends to medical professionals who also play an important role in helping parents cope with their loss healthily. Apart from providing a listening ear to parents, healthcare staff can provide support by giving parents clear information and direct them to any specific support, such as a counsellor or psychologist.
5. Mental health at stake
Many women (or parents) who have lost their baby during pregnancy can go on to develop mental health issues which could last for months to even years. And this does not change even after they subsequently give birth to healthy babies.
It is said that bereaved parents who have unexpectedly lost their children face an increased risk of developing a number of mental disorders, especially affective disorders like clinical depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety.
For grieving mothers, the likelihood for them to be hospitalised for these affective disorders is almost twice that of mothers who do not experience the death of a child, according to Dr Olsen, chairman of epidemiology at the UCLA School of Public Health.
He further explains that mothers “face the greatest risk during the first year after the child dies but remained significantly elevated five years or more after the death”.
“We also found a dose-effect – mothers who lose more than one child, have a greater risk,” he adds.
And beyond that, even after losing a baby, there are plans to go about it while still being respectful to the dead baby. While policies of hospitals differ, some of these babies are treated as clinical waste when removed from the mother and flopped onto a tray. It is a distressing experience for parents.
By openly discussing these issues and available options, only will grieving parents be able to kickstart the healing process and get the relief they need.
And it all starts with one person at a time to break the silence about grief and the loss of the baby.