Perinatal loss impacts 1 in 4 childbearing families. It is estimated that about 10-15% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. A stillbirth occurs after 28 weeks of pregnancy and before birth, and neonatal death occurs within the first month of birth. About 1 in every 50 pregnancies in the US is ectopic, meaning the egg is fertilized outside of the womb and therefore not viable. Despite these significant statistics of events often experienced as traumatic, unexpected, and life-changing, they are still considered taboo. With the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade, ALL pregnancies–whether unwanted, ectopic, or medically complicated–are now scrutinized, jeopardizing maternal physical and mental health. Individuals and families experiencing perinatal loss often experience disenfranchised grief since societal expectations for mourning associated with this kind of loss are noticeably absent. Bereaved mothers in particular are more at risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders– 4 times more likely to develop depressive symptoms and 7 times more likely to develop PTSD.
TV personality and model Chrissy Teigen has become a recent spokesperson for miscarriage after publicly sharing details of her and husband John Legend’s loss at 20 weeks in utero in 2020. She explained to “People” magazine, “I think that it's important that more people keep talking about it and more people talk about their losses, so people know that they're not alone in all that. Because I think one of the hardest parts about it is you just feel like, 'Am I the only person? Why is it not working for me?' We see these perfect lives and these pregnant bellies and people covered in children. And it could be really frustrating to compare yourself to people that seem to have everything all the time."
Health and healing are possible in the face of perinatal loss, especially with social support and sensitive presence, which can buffer the effects of the trauma and reduce isolation. Creating meaning through the sharing of the story of parental loss, engagement in sociocultural rituals associated with loss, creation of tangible mementos, and validation of the loss with peers and trained mental health professionals also promote resilience and post-traumatic growth. If you or someone you love has been impacted by perinatal loss and seeking support, please reach out.
Post by Sharon Itkoff Nacache ATR-BC LCAT PMH-C
Original Image by Mustafa Omar via Unsplash