Even though not everybody openly talks about them miscarriages are more common than you may think. Michelle Obama recently revealed that she’d had a miscarriage when trying to become pregnant, and then used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive her daughters, Sasha (17) and Malia (20). In her new book, Becoming, she addresses both miscarriages and IVF.
In a prime-time ABC News special on November 11, “Becoming Michelle: A First Lady’s Journey with Robin Roberts,” the former first lady spoke to Robin Roberts about her infertility and said it’s important for young mothers to talk about miscarriages. “I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,” Obama told Roberts. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”
Dr. Sherry A. Ross, women’s health expert and author of she-ology. The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., agrees that miscarriages should be talked about more. “Women feel a sense of failure when they cannot carry a pregnancy,” she tells Bustle. She says women may ask themselves: What did I do wrong? How can I prevent it? “As a result, many women are embarrassed and ashamed to share a miscarriage with friends and family,” she says.
However, Dr. Ross says to keep in mind that miscarriages are more prevalent than you may think and can happen to anyone. And, since some women are hesitant talking about them, you may not even realize that a people you know had one, too.
Miscarriages Are More Common Than You May Think
“A woman’s risk for a miscarriage ranges from 10 to 50 percent — and, depending on a woman’s age, the average risk is around 15 percent,” Dr. Ross says. She adds that the older you are when you conceive, the greater the likelihood of having a miscarriage. Hence, the aging of eggs is often referred to as your “biological clock.”
“The majority of miscarriages, 60 percent, occur randomly and are due to a genetic abnormality,” she says. “For this reason, women in their late 30s and early 40s are more likely to have miscarriages.” She adds that no matter what age you are, however, women should discuss miscarriages more.
Below, eight women reveal what they’d like other women to know about miscarriages.
1. Laura, 28
“I would want others to know that just because you get back in the routine of work and life doesn’t mean that you’re feeling back to normal. My husband and I suffered a miscarriage just five weeks ago. People who flooded in to help us in the first two weeks have all stopped checking in, which makes us feel even more alone (we are the first of our friends and family to have a miscarriage) and like our son has already been forgotten about. I’d say that it is best to check in more often than you think you should, especially after the initial few weeks.
I’d also want women to know that you may not know what triggers may be, and to feel OK saying no to situations that may make you feel sad and even angry: baby showers for friends, get-togethers with kids around, etc. You and your partner will also very likely grieve differently and go through various stages on a different timeline."
2. Mindy, 29
“Anytime someone mentions miscarriage, I like to reach out to honor our sweet babe we lost several years ago (today, I have two children!). I wish women who miscarried could embrace a few things. The biggest one: Mama, you did your job well — you selflessly carried that baby every second of their life. Also, give yourself the freedom to mourn, especially in those first few weeks when the grief trench is deep. My doctor had so nonchalantly told me to move on, saying miscarriage was a common issue — I was just part of a statistic, and that was life. But what I wish grieving mamas knew was that every emotion has a home: When the sadness or anger or confusion roll in, let them. Losing a baby doesn’t make you a statistic; it makes you a mama grieving a real life that was taken away too soon. And talking about your miscarriage is healing, too. Maybe not right away, but pretty soon you’ll feel that the more you talk about your baby in Heaven, the closer you’ll feel to them. And when your baby no longer feels so very far away, your heart can slowly heal.”
3. Ashley, 36
“I have miscarried twice (at ages 29 and 33) and my husband and I are still childless after a seven-year struggle to conceive. What I want other women to know: Please, allow me space to grieve the loss of my child. It doesn’t matter if I miscarried at five weeks or 25 weeks. To me, I just lost my child and I need space to grieve that very real loss. While you may be well-intentioned with statements such as, ‘You’re young, you can try again’ or ‘At least you weren’t very far along,’ those statements trivialize my pain.”
4. Marianna, 39
“I’ve experienced three miscarriages. After the first one, lots of women came out of the woodwork and shared their stories with me. So, know that it happens all the time, it is a normal (and unfortunate) part of the process of becoming a parent, and that most people who experience them will go on to have healthy pregnancies.
My second miscarriage was not typical though, and more people need to know about this type of miscarriage. I experienced a molar pregnancy — and the placenta became cancerous. In most situations, a fetus cannot survive this or no fetus develops. In my situation, I needed two D&C (dilation and curettage) procedures and nine months of chemotherapy to clear the cancer. Much of this could have been prevented if doctors had heeded my request to have a D&C at the first signs of miscarriage. So, if you’re experiencing miscarriage, know that you have the right to get the treatment you want for it — whether it is to pass it at home or to get a D&C. And if you pass it at home, it is really important to follow up with your provider quickly to make sure that everything has passed.”
5. Catherine, Mid-30s
“Having experienced a miscarriage with my first pregnancy, I want other women to know that there’s no shame in what happened; losing a baby is never your fault. There's for sure a stigma about miscarrying, and I want women to be open about it so they can help other women. And allow yourself time to grieve and heal, however you need to. The trauma of a loss can be felt in so many surprising ways and time’s the most important thing in overcoming the experience.”
6. Sara, 45
“If I could give one piece of advice to women who have miscarried, it’d be this: ‘It’s OK not to feel sad about it.’ Between my two daughters, I had two miscarriages in my mid-30s, both very early term (six and eight weeks, respectively). I barely had time to register being pregnant, let alone to get attached to the baby, so I never felt sad about losing these two babies. I don’t make a big deal out of my younger daughter being a ‘rainbow baby’ or anything. It simply was not a highly emotional ordeal for me, and it is hard to dwell on them when my second child is such a delight.”
“I miscarried twice in a row and it was one of the most emotionally challenging things I have gone through in my adult life. ... I want other women to know that their pain is real. It is a real loss and there is a real mourning process involved — give yourself the time you need to mourn. You shouldn’t feel like a failure in any way and you should not be afraid to tap into your support network — be it a spouse, a family member, or friend, to talk about what you are going through. This is not something you have to go through alone. Further, the doctor you are dealing with can truly make all the difference. Personally, I dealt with a doctor who was acclaimed medically, but had no bedside manner and lacked compassion. It did not make an already-difficult experience any easier. So seek out medical professionals who are your advocates — who can offer the necessary medical insights, but also acknowledge the very real and very human component of fertility.”
8. Tami, 54
“I miscarried in 1993 when I was 29. I want other women to know: ‘It’s not your fault.’ You might still have other healthy babies; I have two wonderful sons. You have the right to be sad because of your miscarriage; you will never forget. When people say ‘It’s for the best’ because they are trying to be helpful, you have the right to respond, ‘Thank you, but I wish I knew why it happened,’ or something to that effect. The same time of year that ‘baby’ was due, I planted a small tree that flowers in the spring. When I moved from the house where I lived at the time to my current home in 1996, I dug it up and replanted it. It’s pretty big now.”
As you can see, many of the women above who have had miscarriages encourage other women to talk about it more. Tammy Sun, CEO of Carrot, a company that makes fertility treatments more affordable and accessible for employees, agrees. “De-stigmatizing the conversation about miscarriages, IVF, and other essential fertility care happens when leaders like Michelle Obama make the deliberate and powerful effort to share their personal stories,” she tells Bustle. “We hope more women start a dialogue with family and friends."
Dr. Ross adds that, after a miscarriage, it’s important not to lose hope. “If you have experienced a miscarriage, know there is fertility hope on the horizon,” she says. “Even if you have had one miscarriage, your risk will not increase if you become pregnant again.” She says that only two percent of women will experience two miscarriages in a row. “Statistically, you will be able to get pregnant again and deliver a healthy baby.”
All in all, it’s important to do whatever coping mechanisms work best for you, and the women above definitely provide great input.