Getting pregnant is a life-altering event. Some immediately announce it for everyone to know while there are some who choose to be quiet, keeping the news to themselves for one reason or another. Regardless of the circumstances behind the pregnancy, those first signs of life in the form of two lines will mean huge changes.
Unfortunately, not all pregnancies end in birth. The average risk of miscarriage during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or the first trimester is a significant 20% - with the first two weeks at 75%, the 3rd to 6th weeks at 10%, and 6th to 12th week at 5%. Some women miscarry even before they find out that they are pregnant.
Despite the significant chance of miscarriage, most couples, especially the mothers, never really think that this will happen to them, and when it does, it is often always devastating. Friends and family of the couple would usually offer words to comfort them, but not all of these words will actually have a good reception with the couple.
To avoid being more hurtful rather than comforting, here are some things you should avoid saying to someone who had a miscarriage:
1. “You can try for another baby.” A couple who just had a miscarriage is not really thinking about the next baby. They are thinking about THIS baby. There is a time in the future for them to consider another pregnancy when they are ready, but for the present, they will not care about future babies because they will be mourning the one they just lost. Just as any parent will not think it’s okay to lose a child because they have other children, the possibility of future pregnancies will not make a miscarriage less painful.
2. “At least the baby was still small.” There are many variations to this statement, including “it would have been much worse if the baby was bigger or if you’ve given birth already”. All these mean the same thing – the loss is not that big. Regardless of the age of the baby, any parent understandably gets emotionally attached from the time they learn about the pregnancy. The loss of a child is a loss no matter how old the child is and making the couple feel that theirs is not such a big deal is very hurtful and will not provide comfort in any way.
3. “What happened/what did you do?” Along with those two lines in the pregnancy test comes the typical mother’s guilt – “Am I eating the right food for the baby?”, “Am I doing anything wrong?”, “Am I doing enough?” This self-interrogation blows up in epic proportions in the event of a miscarriage, and voicing out questions similar to what has probably been asked in her head over and over again will not help. It implies that the mother did something wrong to cause the miscarriage which is almost always untrue. Although some factors may increase a mother’s risks, the miscarriage itself is usually a one-time occurrence that can randomly happen to anyone. In fact, except for recurring miscarriages, most remain unexplained. Asking the couple what happened puts them in a position where they will be left grasping for an explanation that they themselves do not have.
4. “You’ll get over this.” Ask anyone who has lost someone really close to them and most of them might tell you that they do not really “get over” the loss. The pain may dull a bit, making it easier to deal with the loss, but to get over it - which means to move on and forget about it – is not likely to happen. This statement is hurtful because it undermines the loss that the couple just experienced. A lot of people who have had a miscarriage still feel the loss even years after. For many of them, the short time they had with their unborn baby is precious and definitely not something they would wish to forget.
5. “Maybe the baby would have had problems if the pregnancy continued.” Saying this is not just hurtful, it is offensive and inappropriate. It implies that babies with problems are better to be miscarried. It also implies that the couple would not want the baby had it been born with problems. In this situation, anything that implies that the couple is better off with losing the baby is a huge no-no!
What you can do Despite one’s best intentions, a person can end up hurting and upsetting the couple instead of being able to provide comfort and solace. Stop yourself from saying anything similar to those listed above to avoid any misinterpretation. Instead, here are some of the things you can say and do that will provide comfort and help the couple who just had the miscarriage.
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• Listen. Whether it is a story of when they were still pregnant or their plans for the baby or the events leading up to the miscarriage, being a sounding board is one of the best things you can do.
• Express how sorry you are. There is no need for anything else besides a straight, direct, and sincere “I’m sorry for your loss.” This effectively expresses your sympathy while acknowledging their loss.
• Let them know it is okay to grieve. Some couples, despite feeling devastated and sad, are hesitant to grieve openly knowing that others may not understand the impact of their loss. For these couples, telling them to take their time to grieve is an affirmation of how they are feeling and that it is not wrong to feel that way.