10 Sep Men and Miscarriage
When a pregnancy results in a miscarriage, the mother and father both grieve a tragic loss. In the weeks that follow a miscarriage, attention tends to be focused on the mother about how she is feeling physically and coping emotionally through her loss. The father’s feelings can be overlooked proving it difficult to have their needs recognised and met. The father has lost his baby too but since he is not the one physically carrying the baby, he can feel detached from the situation. People often assume that the mother has a stronger sense of connection with the baby, and thus experience a deeper sense of loss, than her partner.
It’s ok to grieve
As the father you may find that you are expected to hide your feelings in order to be strong for your partner which may feel to their partner as if he blames her or he doesn’t care. In other cases the partner feel as if he has to put on a brave face and be the one to support his partner through her grief. More than 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage with 85% of them occurring in the first trimester , there may not be a way to communicate their sense of greif if they haven’t told anybody about the pregnancy. Some men are quite shocked at the level of grief that they feel even after an early miscarriage and find it hard to cope with.
Those raw emotions will gradually give way to a sense of sadness and regret, and an acceptance of what has happened. The experience will become less overwhelming and even if the sense of loss never truly leaves you, you will learn to deal with it in your own way.
You may feel some of these emotions following a miscarriage:
- Shock: at the turn of events, especially if there were no signs that anything was wrong.
- Anger: at medical staff for not preventing it happening; at the unfairness of it all.
- Grief: a strong and perhaps unexpected sense of loss and bereavement.
- Isolation: loneliness, especially if your partner seems to be shutting you out, or if others don’t seem to understand how you feel.
- Guilt and failure: for what happened; for your partner’s emotional and physical trauma; perhaps for not being there when it happened.
- Relief: after a period of uncertainty; or at the end of a pregnancy that you didn’t want.
- Helplessness and frustration: at your lack of control over events.
- Loss of concentration: feeling overwhelmed by events and emotions.
- Lack or loss of interest in sex: you may associate sex with the physical aspects of miscarriage; or be worried about when it is safe to resume.
- Anxiety: about your partner’s emotional and physical state; about your relationship; about a future pregnancy.
- Impatience: the urge to get back to normal; and to try for another pregnancy.
Coping with your feelings
Everyone’s deals with grief differently and each experience is highly individual. Remember that whatever you’re feeling, you are never alone and many other men are going through or have gone through the same experience.
Here are some suggested ways to help you cope with your feelings:
Talk about it: Express your feelings to someone you feel comfortable with, such as your partner, a family member, a friend or someone at the Miscarriage Association of Ireland.
It may feel uncomfortable to speak about it especially if you’re not used to showing emotion – but it really can help.
Learn as much as you can: You can find out more about what has happened, why it happened and what is likely to happen in the future – from your doctor or from the Miscarriage Association of Ireland. Clear information can restore some feeling of control and can help you understand what you’re partner is going through especially if you’re finding it difficult to relate to your partners grief.
Time heals all wounds: Coming to terms with a miscarriage is a process and there is no set timeline for getting through it. Don’t be surprised if you have ‘bad days’ and ‘good days’.
Be prepared: It is very common for feelings to resurface at specific times or for a situation to trigger a painful memory. Particularly significant dates can be the day your baby was due to be born and the anniversary of the miscarriage, Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day.
Find help: If you find yourself ‘stuck’ in the raw stages of grief and simply cannot move on, bereavement counselling can be very helpful in working out how to deal with this.
Struggle to understand
Men may not have felt that bond with the baby and can lead to them not understanding their partner sense of loss of the baby causing distress and misunderstanding. Men have not experienced the same physical and emotional changes caused by pregnancy hormones as their partner has, and might not yet have seen a scan or felt the baby kick. This is especially true now in Covid times as partners are unable to come along to appointments.
As the father you may be wondering – how can I understand what my partner is going through? Or how can I support her through this time?
What you can do for both of you
Talk to your partner: Talking is probably the most important thing that either of you can do. It can help you both come to terms with what has happened and to make sense of your situation. Really listening and sharing your feelings with one another can help each of you understand what the other is going through. Many women say that they need to talk about their experience and feelings over and over again and you may find that you need to do the same.
Acknowledge the loss: However early the loss, you may have planned your future around the arrival of your baby. If this is the case, try not to pretend that they never existed. Acknowledge the sense of loss and sadness you may both be feeling and don’t be afraid to cry or to see your partner cry – it’s sometimes just what’s needed.
There will be differences: You and your partner’s feelings and reactions may be different now or may evolve over time. Try to accept that difference is normal and that you can still support and understand each other.
Use other resources: Family and friends, work colleagues and health professionals, support organisations, websites and information leaflets may all have something to offer.
Changes in your relationship
Don’t be surprised if the miscarriage makes you re-examine all sorts of things about yourself, your relationship with your partner and your priorities. Accept that your relationship may be permanently affected by what has happened, but remember that you can influence whether it is for better or worse by communicating with and supporting each other
The loss of a baby can put a strain on even the closest relationships. Just when you need each other most, it may be difficult to offer each other support. You may both be upset but in different ways or at different times. Or it may be that you have very different feelings about the miscarriage, with one of you struggling to understand why life is not “back to normal” and why it is taking the other a long time to come to terms with the loss. This can cause a lot of tension and arguments at what is already a difficult and distressing time.
It is very common for sexual difficulties to follow the loss of a baby. You might feel that making love is one way of providing comfort and closeness, but your partner may not feel ready. Or it might be the other way around. One or both of you may associate sex with pregnancy and thus potentially another loss, or think that you should not be feeling pleasure while you are grieving. There may be physical reasons too. It may take time, patience and understanding on both sides before you can re-establish intimacy.
Sources of support
You may find it helpful to seek support and/or information from someone outside the family. Here are some suggestions:
Your GP, hospital or community health service are well placed to help and may be able to refer you to their own support and/or counselling services.
HSE You may find it useful to find out more information about why a miscarriage occurred or if you experienced an Ectopic pregnancy or Stillbirth.