Losing a baby during pregnancy is hard no matter how many weeks along you were.
When we lost ours to miscarriage around 9 weeks (which in reality hadn’t grown since 5 weeks), a consultant said to us that we hadn’t really lost “a baby”, just “a pregnancy”, like that somehow made it ok.
Women will say to me in consultation that they don’t know why they feel so bad because their baby was “only” a few weeks along, almost like they shouldn’t be grieving as they are. It doesn’t help when well meaning colleagues, friends or family members say things like “well you can always try again”, or “at least you know you can”.
Losing a child hurts fullstop.
You’ve not just lost “a pregancy”, you’ve lost a whole future. From the very point of awareness, a mother is thinking about her baby. What might he/she look like, how will they grow up, what you’ll do together as a family and on and on and on it goes. It’s all a mother can think about.
So when the baby is lost, it is utterly devastating.
I remember feeling a harder grief for our baby than I did when my dad died – and that was incredibly painful too.
We need to talk to eachother
And what about the silence around pregnancy in the first 3 months? There’s a big thing in society about “keeping quiet” until the first scan. But if we had done this, we wouldn’t have had the huge support that we got from our family, friends and work colleagues. We were very open from the start, and I’m so glad we were. Our miscarriage prompted others to tell us about theirs. We had no idea they had gone through it because it was just not spoken about.
This is why I’m supporting baby loss awareness week this year. I couldn’t face it in 2022 when our miscarriage had just happened, but I found it comforting to see posts online about it and the outpouring of support for grieving families.
My hope is that eventually the stigma around miscarriage and stillbirth will be a thing of the past and we’ll have better recognition in workplace policies and acceptance of the need to take time off to physically recover and grieve.
Language is important
The other thing I hope that will eventually change is the attitute around early pregnancy loss and terminology. As a junior doctor working in obstetrics and gynaecology, I wasn’t aware of how hurtful the terminology we used was. Phrases like “products of conception” make the loss of a baby sound so clinical and doesn’t acknowledge the little being that was.
Thankfully ERPC (evacuation of retained products of conception) has been replaced by Surgical Management of Miscarriage (SMM), but there are still old-fashioned attitudes to early pregnancy loss, as I mentioned at the top of this post in our experience.
We also need to be careful about what we say to others who have lost babies. It’s important to acknowledge the loss and allow ourselves to process that loss in whatever way we feel is important.
If you’ve experienced the loss of a baby, my heart goes out to you. I wish I could reach across this page now and give you a massive hug. Just know that there is help out there, and I encourage you to speak to someone about your experiences, even if it is just once. Ideally someone who isn’t emotionally involved in what is going on, because it helps you to be as open as you can be.
Don’t dismiss an early pregnancy loss as something you don’t need to grieve over. If you hurt, then you need the time to heal as you would with any bereavement. It’s also important for partners to seek help if they feel they need it too.
Throughout baby loss awareness week on instagram, I’ll be sharing details of charities and resources you can look up for help. There are so many out there, and you may find local ones to you too.
The 7 I’ll be sharing are:
- Cradle: https://cradlecharity.org/
- Miscarriage Association: https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/
- Tommys: https://www.tommys.org/baby-loss-support
- Sands: https://www.sands.org.uk/
- The Lily Mae Foundation: https://www.lilymaefoundation.org/
- The ectopic pregnancy trust: https://ectopic.org.uk/
- Miscarriage for men: https://www.miscarriageformen.com/
This list is by no means exhaustive, but they are all excellent places to start.
Don’t suffer alone. Tell people how you feel and seek professional help. If you feel able to, join in with the baby loss awareness week wave of light on 15th October 7pm. We are invited to light a candle and post a photo on the day at that time with the hashtag #WaveOfLight.
Dr Nikki x
P.S. if you’re based in or near Milton Keynes and you’re looking for a women’s only GP service, sign up to the waiting list to be the first to find out when it opens.