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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Miscarriage

Uploaded: Jan 7, 2014
I have been pregnant seven times. I wanted two children. I have a wonderful son who will be 18 this year. My last miscarriage was two weeks before I turned 40 (which was my cut-off date for trying because I was physically and emotionally worn out from the multiple pregnancies and miscarriages).

It's shocking how little has been written about miscarriage, especially given how common it is. Several years ago when I was looking for books on miscarriage, I found only a few, and they were clinical; the "what went wrong" factor. I was looking for the "How do I deal with this?" aspect. Now there are a few hundred to choose from.

Miscarriage is often an unspoken loss; many couples choose not to announce a pregnancy until after the first trimester in order to avoid the risk of sharing the news only to have hope dashed. This can make for lonely beginnings of pregnancy – for women and men.

Studies* show that loving care and emotional support are the best help after a miscarriage. Due to the silence surrounding miscarriage (and fertility issues), men and women alike may be deprived of the support of loving friends and family.

One to two percent of women have repeated miscarriages for unknown reasons. Fortunately, the chances of a pregnancy succeeding after multiple miscarriages is about the same as for a woman who has not had miscarriages. Maternal age and egg quality are much bigger factors.

But the stress of follow-up pregnancies is understandably higher, and the desire to not share the news often increases as well. Both of these factors may lead to less social support at a time it is needed more than ever.
Partners may also have differing opinions – and needs – regarding whom to tell, and when to announce a pregnancy. If and when a couple ultimately decides to seek interventions for fertility concerns, their desire to talk about it may diverge even further.

Added to all of this, sex often becomes about making a baby. Sex shifts to being based on a schedule of ovulation tests or doctor recommendations prior to IVF cycles. Sex may be completely put on hold for IVF.
What was once loving, lustful, playful, bonding, and maybe even spiritual for couples, becomes a chore. This in itself is a major grief. At first, having a lot of sex is a fun part of trying to have a baby. Over time, if having sex is just about procreation, it may eventually become a tremendous block between mates.

Many couples don't talk about this shift until it has blind-sided them onto opposing sides of a great divide, and intimacy suffers. Men get tired of performing on demand, and women get tired of the singular focus of making a baby. And both persist out of their desire to be parents.

Actually talking about the stresses and loss of spontaneity can help couples maintain and even grow their intimacy. In this case, when I say intimacy, I mean emotional closeness, bonding, and attachment.

It's very important to take good care of yourself and each other when dealing with miscarriage. Recognize your differing reactions and needs, and that her hormones are going through many changes. Miscarriage is a loss of a shared, imagined future. So do grieve, and also take breaks from your thoughts by exercising, going to movies, listening to music, doing fun things together that you used to do, and so on. Reach out for social support that may include online miscarriage support groups. Eat well, minimize alcohol consumption, and get a good night's sleep.

For those of you interested in statistics about miscarriage, here are a few:
Most miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities.
Because women can take a pregnancy test so close to a late or missed period date, the miscarriage percentage rate is 30% or more.
Without taking a pregnancy test, many of those eggs will miscarry without a woman even knowing she was ever pregnant; she will appear to have had a late period.
15-20% of natural implantation will end in miscarriage, mostly in the first trimester.
The rate of miscarriage is much lower once the fetal heartbeat has been located (meaning the 10% to 15% discrepancy above may be implantation that did not grow properly).

* http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/11/2868.long

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lisa, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 7, 2014 at 12:40 pm

This is a wonderfully thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing your experience and providing good advice for others. Although I have myself been lucky with pregnancies, I have a sister and friends who have had more trouble. It is important to have voices such as yours advising all of us on how to support people going through these difficult experiences.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jessica T., a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jan 9, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Chandrama - Thank you for posting about miscarriage, sharing your story, and raising how it can impact a couple's intimacy. We don't talk about it enough.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Janet, a resident of Los Altos,
on Jan 14, 2014 at 9:56 am

Thank you for shedding light on an important subject. It has now been 20 years since my last miscarriage. I had four of them AFTER a successful first pregnancy, including a tubal pregnancy which further hindered my ability to become pregnant. My situation is referred to as "Secondary Infertility". I remember that I felt guilty for mourning my lost pregnancies. After all, I already had one child which was more than some couples. But, we all have our own hopes and dreams--whether it is to have one child or many, and when our dreams are shattered it is very painful. Not to mention the physical strain of miscarriage! I remember getting to the point where I would only write down my appointments or certain dates in pencil on my calendar because I wanted to be able to erase those things if the pregnancy didn't work out--instead of inking it in and having to see those painful reminders on my calendar. Miscarriage is a loss, for sure. I've never forgotten about my four babies that I lost.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Thank you Lisa, Jessica, and Janet for your comments.

I don't know about you, but I received "Welcome Baby" items in the mail after miscarriage. That was painful.

I'm sure there are many, many remembered babies.



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