How To Support Someone Who Is Grieving This Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day
Content Warning: This article discusses infertility, pregnancy and infant loss and may be triggering for some readers.
According to SANDS, each year approximately 110,000 Australians have a miscarriage while countless others will have to end their much-wanted pregnancies due to medical reasons or experience the sadness that can accompany fertility struggles and difficulties trying to conceive.
A further 2,200 will experience the devastation of stillbirth while 600 will lose their newborn in the first 28 days of their life.
For many, choosing to openly share their losses can be a cathartic process, while others may choose to keep their struggles private.
The stigma that still surrounds sharing pregnancy news (with many choosing to wait until the end of their first trimester before announcing a pregnancy) means that for many people who experience a miscarriage, their friends and loved ones may have never even known they were pregnant.
How to support someone through pregnancy loss and fertility strugglesAccording to the NHS, one in seven couples will have difficulty conceiving and we wanted to acknowledge the unique pain that can accompany fertility challenges and being unable to fall pregnant.
Infertility and miscarriage are both deeply personal, and many women or couples choose to keep this journey private. But it is often a pain suffered in silence, with the WHO highlighting that miscarriage is the most common reason for losing a baby during pregnancy.
According to Mayo Clinic, about 10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage and while most occur before the 12th week of pregnancy, miscarriage is defined as the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks.
For many couples, having those around them fail to acknowledge their loss and minimise the experience of miscarriage can be particularly harmful. The American Pregnancy Association encourages people to support bereaved parents by talking about the baby, sharing in the hopes and dreams the parent had for the baby, acknowledging their grief and stress, and making practical offers to help. This might also include offering to keep baby items or memorabilia until the family is ready, or offering to return items or maternity clothes.
How to support someone who has lost a babyTommy’s, a UK-based charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, spoke to families who had experienced the heartbreak of stillbirth as part of their Baby Loss Support Series.
While they caution that everyone’s unique experience with grief will be different, their tips included listening, being there for them and finding ways to support the family and offer practical help.
They highlight that grieving people often struggle to know what to ask for, so suggest that instead of saying “what can I do to help?” you reframe the question with a concrete suggestion such as “what can I get from the shops for you?”.
Tommy’s also encourages people to talk about the baby, make an effort to keep their memory alive as time passes and acknowledge them by using their name, but to ultimately follow the parent’s lead.
March of Dimes, a US-based not-for-profit organisation, highlights how hard it is to know what to say to parents whose baby has died - whether that be due to stillbirth or if the baby passed away as a newborn. Again, they recommend patience, an ability to listen and practical help during this time.
They also encourage being honest, comforting and simple with your approach when discussing loss with bereaved parents, and recommend using wording such as "I'm sorry for your loss", "I don't know what to say, I can't imagine what you're going through" and "I care about you and your family, please let me know what I can do to help". They also offer an important reminder that both parents need support during this time, highlighting that grieving fathers are often forgotten about when help is offered.
How you can observe Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness DayThere are a number of events taking place in person and online to give families an opportunity to publicly remember and acknowledge the loss of their much-loved babies. On this day, you can get involved by lighting a candle at 7 pm and sharing your image on social media with the hashtags #pail and #standingsilent.
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.