Vimala Nair was 9 weeks pregnant when she suddenly felt a warm wetness gush out of her nether regions one day while she was in the middle of a discussion with a colleague at work. On rushing to the toilet, the corporate communications manager found that she was bleeding massively.
Luckily, she had her mobile phone with her, so she called her husband, who came to get her immediately. “I remember crying all the way to the hospital. A part of me had hoped it was just a scare and that everything was going to be fine,” Vimala recalls. “But everything felt wrong that day, and I knew I was going to lose my baby.”
As many as 1 in 3 pregnancies end in a miscarriage ― it usually occurs during the first trimester, which is between weeks one and 12. According to SmartParents’ gynae expert Dr Christopher Chong who practises at Gleneagles Hospital, “It’s common ― the exact cause of a miscarriage is usually unknown, although issues with the placenta, hormone levels and pre-existing autoimmune diseases can all contribute to it.”
It may be common, but the sudden loss of an unborn baby is hard for anyone to digest. Many people choose to not say anything, overlooking the pain of the recent mum- and dad-to-be.
The best thing you can do? Simply offer your sympathies and help.
“The mindset of many is that if the baby didn’t ‘exist’, then neither does the pain,” notes Sheryl Tan, 37, who miscarried her first baby at six weeks. “Some of my family members acted like it didn’t happen, but I wanted to scream ‘I was pregnant last week, but now I’m not and it hurts!’”
Truth is, most people just don’t know what to say when they receive news of a miscarriage. This is when a barrage of comments come pouring out ― genuinely meant to make you feel better, but which end up sounding insensitive.
The best thing you can do? Simply offer your sympathies and help. “Most importantly, approach it gently and with great compassion, remembering that each woman may need something different,” adds marriage and family therapist Anoushka Beh. Here are 8 things never to say to someone who has experienced a miscarriage.
1) “At least you can get pregnant”
“After the first miscarriage, chances of getting a healthy normal pregnancy the next time round is very high,” Dr Chong notes. Even if this fact is backed up by science, it doesn’t provide any comfort. Nobody knows how long the couple will take to conceive again, should they decide to, or if they will need any medical intervention.
2) “At least you miscarried early.”
Doesn’t matter at which point you lost the baby, a loss is still a loss. It’s sad and should be grieved over. While the physical effects of a miscarriage varies ― the earlier the stage the faster the recovery ― the emotional effects are pretty much the same at any point. Beh notes that some women whose pregnancies ended at an earlier stage do tend to move through their loss easily than others, but this also depends on how well they have processed the experience and the level of their emotional coping skills. Whatever the case, it’s not your place to tell the bereaved woman if she should be allowed to feel sad or not.
Click here for more “what not to say” statements to avoid making after a miscarriage…
3) “Did you eat or do something wrong?”
This is a common yet tough one to swallow and is actually a well-intentioned question to figure out what could have caused the miscarriage. You will face countless questions in the weeks following a miscarriage as well as ask yourself plenty of “what ifs”. If you have any questions about the miscarriage, check with your gynae. However, don’t add self-blame and any feelings of guilt that may arise from another person’s well-intentioned but tactless questions. This won’t help you, especially if you should be recuperating in a positive environment.
4) “It’s common”
“Almost every one of my close friends has had a miscarriage occur at least once,” Vimala notes. Yes, miscarriage is common ― so, is death, which is one of life’s few certainties. If you could never imagine attending a funeral and telling their loved ones that “death is common”, then you shouldn’t be saying this to a woman who has lost her baby.
5) “It’s probably for the best. The baby wouldn’t have been healthy anyway.”
A difficult pregnancy doesn’t always mean that the baby will be born with disabilities. In fact, countless women have endured pregnancy-related problems such as placenta praevia ― when the placenta blocks the neck of the uterus, which causes severe bleeding for months before your due date ― and have gone on to deliver healthy babies. Also, never assume that the parents wouldn’t have loved their child, in spite of its health problems and deformities. When Chloe Tan lost her first baby, her mother-in-law told her, “Good things come to people who wait. She made it sound like my first pregnancy wasn’t a good thing, it was very hurtful.”
“It would also help greatly if she can talk to other women who have been in the same boat as her, then went on to have successful pregnancies.”
6) “So-and-so’s miscarriage was worse than yours”
It’s important that the grieving woman has a strong and stable support system during this horrible time in her life. It would also help greatly if she can talk to other women who have been in the same boat as her, then went on to have successful pregnancies, notes Dr Chong. Sharing similar stories is helpful, but trying to “outdo” her grief by sharing someone else’s miscarriage experience ― and making it sound even worse than hers ― is not going to make her feel better about her situation at all. In fact, it may make her feel guiltier that she is mourning a less-intense experience.
7) “You will get over it”
Maybe she will, maybe she won’t ― even though time may heal the wound and the emotional pain will get easier to live with. It’s true for other types of losses, such the breakdown of a relationship or the death of a loved one. But as we mentioned before, it’s not your place to decide that for the woman who is grieving the loss of her little one. Nor is this the most helpful thing to say at that point or ever.
(8) “You will fall pregnant again”
“This was probably the most annoying thing I heard after my miscarriage,” says Michelle Jones-White, 42. “You don’t know for sure do you…and do you know when it will happen?” Dr Chong advises that a woman concentrate on recovering fully physically before trying to conceive again. Concurring, Beh adds, “It’s important that the woman feels that she has healed from the loss and feels as balanced and strong as possible for when she does try again.” By the way, even though you’re expecting another child does not mean that the new baby will compensate for the loss of the previous pregnancy. That’s a loss that can never be replaced.
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