More than one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage – that’s potentially around a quarter of a million each year in the UK.
But while these cold, hard statistics show the scale of miscarriage, they do nothing to reflect the deep sense of grief and complicated emotions that many women experience after they have lost a baby.
For something that the data says is so common, miscarriage is hardly ever spoken about. This can make it even harder for women to cope.
“Isolation is one of the biggest issues for women to deal with after a miscarriage,” said our member Sarah Wheatley, speaking during Baby Loss Awareness Week.
“It’s a very unsupported grief.
She added: “It’s unseen – but it’s really common."
For many women who experience a miscarriage, the extent of the grief they feel after losing a baby is very unexpected.
Sarah added: “One of the biggest issues with miscarriage is that it’s not seen as a baby. People use all these medical terms when talking about miscarriage, it can be very dispassionate. They don’t really understand the depth of the loss.
“It can be really hard for a woman to find a way to grieve as it feels different to other grief. Women are grieving for the idea of a baby, it maybe doesn’t feel so concrete or tangible. But they are still going through a full-on grieving process.”
The physical process of going through a miscarriage can be very traumatic as well – and that can have a huge emotional impact on women.
“It’s really shocking and going through it can be quite traumatic.
“They might feel embarrassed about what has gone on physically.
“They might have been in their professional guise, when they’ve gone to the toilet during the working day and realised that they’re probably losing their baby.
“There are so many physical aspects that people don’t really think about, and they can be really shocking and awful,” added Sarah.
And shame is another emotion that women often experience, said Sarah, who runs Birth and Beyond, in Edinburgh, which offers counselling for pregnant women and mothers.
“There’s a lot of shame. That can be really isolating too."
Not their fault
Sarah said: “Often women feel it’s their fault, even though it’s not. That can be a really persistent feeling, which adds to the grief they are already going through.
“They feel there’s something they could have done. Or especially, that there’s something wrong with their body. It’s very difficult not to internalise this as something emotional when you want to hide the feeling that ‘my body let me down’.”
And a feeling of unfairness is also common.
“Those thoughts that it’s really easy to get pregnant, and having a miscarriage is so unfair, can be a really common experience. Women feel guilty or jealous because they find it difficult to be happy for others who are pregnant. Then that leads to the women disliking themselves or judging themselves.”
It’s a list of complicated emotions to go through, especially when it’s not traditionally a subject people open up about.
And there are thousands of women going through this ordeal in the UK every day, and keeping it to themselves.
“It can be hard talking to a partner as well as they may feel a different way. And it can sometimes be difficult for women to talk about it with other people they love because of the added upset of what they are feeling too,” she adds, commenting on how prospective grandparents, aunts and uncles may also be reacting to the news of the miscarriage.
Sarah said finding a ‘safe space’ where people can open up about how they’re feeling in these circumstances is crucial.
And that could be with a counsellor or a peer support group.
“For women who have experienced miscarriages, safe spaces where they can be open about what they are feeling, share these feelings and reduce the shame they feel is so important. They can talk about how they feel about the jealousy, the sense of unfairness and know that no one is judging.
“People handle grief in different ways, so different types of help can be good in different ways. Discussing what they have been through might help them in the grieving process.
“It’s just really important to reduce the isolation."
And talking directly to any woman who has experienced a miscarriage, she said: "The key thing here is to remember not to be so hard on yourself. You need to make space to have these feelings, to expect these feelings and to not feel ashamed. You need to have space to grieve.
“That safe space to share your feelings can really help in the grieving process.”
To talk to a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist about pregnancy-related issues, visit our Therapist directory.