Break­ing the si­lence around preg­nancy loss

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Front Page - Padraig O’Mo­rain

Preg­nancy loss, in­clud­ing mis­car­riage, in­fer­til­ity and ter­mi­na­tion can bring pain, si­lence and hid­ing – and you have to won­der just how wide and deep is the sea of emo­tional dis­tress that is hid­den from most of our eyes most of the time. In the case of men it is more hid­den, I think, be­cause men so of­ten suf­fer in si­lence, though many women are silent too.

I was led to these re­flec­tions by an ar­ti­cle by Brighton-based coun­sel­lor Jojo Gos­ney in Ther­apy To­day, pub­lished by the Bri­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for Coun­selling and Psy­chother­apy.

“I of­ten won­der why there is such si­lenc­ing shame around mis­car­riage,” she writes. It has of­ten struck me too that mis­car­riage, es­pe­cially in the early stages of a preg­nancy, is not viewed with the se­ri­ous­ness it de­serves as a ter­ri­ble event in the lives of the prospec­tive par­ents.

In­deed, we can very eas­ily end up iso­lat­ing peo­ple at the very time they need our sup­port. She gives the ex­am­ple of one woman whose baby died at around 12 weeks. Other peo­ple just didn’t know what to say and some solved this dilemma by avoid­ing her and her part­ner. He stopped talk­ing about it and the hospi­tal just told her to try again.

Men, she says, “of­ten pro­vide a solid source of sup­port and com­fort to their part­ner while she en­dures a painful labour and de­liv­ers a child that never draws breath”.

But out­side that re­la­tion­ship there is of­ten no place for the man to ex­press and go through his grief. When the mis­car­riage is pre­ceded by years of IVF treat­ment, the blow is all the greater as these years may have “dwin­dled their fi­nances and emo­tional re­sources”.

Some cou­ples are strength­ened by these ex­pe­ri­ences. Oth­ers, how­ever, hide away from a world “peo­pled by ba­bies, preg­nant women and proud fathers with their chil­dren”.

She points to re­cent re­search which sug­gests that as many as 40 per cent of women have symp­toms of post-trau­matic stress three months af­ter an early mis­car­riage. Post-trau­matic stress is char­ac­terised by symp­toms that can in­clude flash­backs, in­tru­sive dreams/night­mares, ir­ri­tabil­ity, height­ened re­ac­tiv­ity, anx­i­ety and a sense of dis­con­nec­tion from one’s sur­round­ings.

“Pre­na­tal classes have only pre­pared these par­ents for the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of preg­nancy, birth and early child­care,” she writes.

The griev­ing par­ents lose not only their child but their dreams. “Men can also suf­fer in si­lence and alone with de­ci­sions to ter­mi­nate a preg­nancy,” she writes.

She gives a va­ri­ety of ex­am­ples – a woman who had an abor­tion be­cause she al­ready had teenage chil­dren, cou­ples end­ing a preg­nancy af­ter a foetus is dis­cov­ered to have ab­nor­mal­i­ties, and a woman who had an abor­tion as a young teenager at a time when at­ti­tudes to sin­gle par­ent­hood were harsh com­pared with to­day’s. A com­mon thread in the emo­tional af­ter­math of these ex­pe­ri­ences is not be­ing able to talk to other peo­ple about it.

Be­tween 1980 and 2009, al­most 150,000 Ir­ish women had abor­tions abroad, the Ir­ish Fam­ily Plan­ning As­so­ci­a­tion has es­ti­mated. Yet it’s rare to hear any­body talk­ing about their abor­tion and their feel­ings around it. In­deed, it is no­tice­able that Gos­ney’s ex­am­ples are, it is rea­son­able to as­sume, based on women liv­ing in the UK where abor­tion has been a right for a long time, yet even there peo­ple don’t get to talk about their feel­ings after­wards, it would ap­pear.

What I’m in­ter­ested in here is the emo­tional needs of peo­ple af­fected by abor­tion. What­ever the out­come of a ref­er­en­dum on the Eighth Amend­ment, peo­ple will still need to be heard.

Pain is of­ten less­ened through be­ing shared and, re­gard­less of whether we know what to say, we should be will­ing to lis­ten to peo­ple about their emo­tions around mis­car­riage, in­fer­til­ity and ter­mi­na­tion.

We gen­er­ally don’t know if some­one has had an abor­tion but we are far more likely to know if they have had a mis­car­riage. If we could even be­gin to talk about that, to women and to men, or to lis­ten to them, it would be a start.

Mis­car­riage, es­pe­cially in the early stages of a preg­nancy, is not viewed with the se­ri­ous­ness it de­serves as a ter­ri­ble event in the lives of the prospec­tive par­ents

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.