If a pregnancy suddenly ends in miscarriage, the parents who lost the baby are often devastated and inconsolable. Sometimes miscarriages happen before the mother-to-be had even realized she was pregnant, but frequently the baby had been planned for and cherished far ahead of time and suddenly he or she is no longer part of the family. A miscarriage loss is overwhelming and friends often don't know what to say, or perhaps more important, what NOT to say.
Initial questions: "Why Me?"
The first question that will most likely arise is "Why me? How could this happen? How can my baby be gone? How could I have a miscarriage?!" There is no definitive answer to this question and studies show that somewhere around 15% of pregnancies are ended prematurely due to miscarriage.
The definition of miscarriage is the ending of a pregnancy before the baby could survive on his or her own outside of the womb. Many miscarriages occur somewhere during the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy but it can happen later, too.
Causes and Cautions
A doctor or emergency room personnel will not be able to tell what caused a miscarriage most of the time. The fact is that it simply is not known. If the mother had suffered a fall or accident causing trauma of some kind, the cause can be determined with a fair amount of certainty but that is not the case most of the time. Some doctors believe that more than 60 percent of early miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
This brings the first cautious of things not to say. If a friend or family member suffers a miscarriage and you read up on the subject or ask a medical professional, you may read or hear rather insensitive facts. You may read a cold statement that a miscarriage is "fixing the situation of a fetus that was not developing normally" or "something was wrong with the baby" for instance. I hope it goes without saying that such a thing should never be said to grieving parents. How could hearing that their lost child was "not normal" possibly help them?
Symptoms, Treatment, and More Caution
The symptoms that occur when a miscarriage is about to happen are usually swift and without much warning. There is generally bleeding from the vagina and it can be accompanied right from the beginning with pain and cramping. If there is bleeding, it goes without saying that medical attention should be sought. Bleeding does *not* always indicate that a miscarriage is happening, however. It is important to be examined just in case. There could also be a rush of fluid that may or may not have pain associated with it.
There is generally no treatment that is needed after a miscarriage. The doctor will check to see if a D amp; C may be needed, but most of the time it is not necessary.
DO NOT SAY something about this miscarriage not representing "a real baby" so early in the development. No matter what your moral beliefs may be concerning "when life begins," this was your friend or acquaintance's child and compassion is called for, not words that wound when you are trying to "help."
The Good News, if That is Possible
Statistics show that a large percentage of women who lose a baby to miscarriage can usually go on to have a perfectly normal pregnancy and healthy children. Even if the cause appears to have been a uterine problem, it can in many cases, be fixed (by a cervical stitch) in a future pregnancy.
A woman should ask her health care provider how soon she can attempt to try for another pregnancy after her miscarriage. The answer should not only cover physical readiness, but her emotional readiness needs to be taken into consideration as well.
Although her chances to have a healthy baby after a miscarriage are high, DO NOT SAY something like "You're young and healthy, you will have more kids." This was her child and hearing someone say that her daughter or son can so easily be "replaced" is not going to help her emotionally in any way. She will ask her doctor when she's ready about having another baby.
Say This, Don't Say That, How Will I Remember?
One of the biggest "unwritten rules" when it comes to interacting with someone who has suffered a miscarriage is to let her determine the tone of the conversation. Don't go on and on with sympathy about the miscarriage if she would rather mourn in private and not talk about it.
On the other end of the spectrum, you should not totally ignore the loss of her baby if she may want to talk about it. The solution is simple, just ask her if she wishes to speak about what happened to her. She may lead the conversation in a certain way from the beginning and you may not have to ask her at all.
A Couple More Very Bad Choices
Sometimes it is extremely difficult to know what to say to a friend after she has had a miscarriage. The loss of her baby is so painful.
There are a few things in addition to what has already been mentioned that should be avoided at all costs:
- If she wants to talk about the miscarriage, refer to the baby as a baby. You will be doing no one any favors to call your friend's baby "it."
- Don't ask how soon she will try to have another baby.
- Don't tell her that you know what she is feeling. If you have had a miscarriage yourself, you may be able to get away with that if she is aware that you have been through the same horror, however. If not, saying you know how she feels is very insincere and she will recognize it as such.
- Don't take your own baby or older child to see your friend. You may consider it with the best of intentions, but a miscarriage just stole her own baby and no matter how stellar and incredibly wonderful your own baby may be, forcing her to spend time with your own child will not help your friend. Doing so would remind her of what she lost, no more.
Whether or not your friend wishes to discuss her miscarriage, try to keep an eye on how she is progressing mentally and emotionally. If it seems that she is still in the initial deep mourning after some time has passed, you may want to suggest a support group of some kind. Be certain, though, because it could offend her if the timing isn't right for your "help."
If she agrees, however, there are miscarriage support groups in many towns and cities. If she prefers to not be face to face with others in the same situation, you may suggest an online miscarriage support group or mailing list.
The most vital thing to remember is that her miscarriage was a devastating loss of a baby to your friend, and not just something that she should "get over" in a short time.