People don’t talk about miscarriage. Unless, of course, they’re talking about a “miscarriage of justice.” In which case they’re probably just super late to the Making A Murderer phenomenon and it’s just, like, what are they even doing with their lives?
But an actual miscarriage is way more likely to affect your life than the Wisconsin district court system. In fact, statistics suggest that up to 25-percent of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage. That’s about 5-percent more pregnancies that end in loss than parents who will have an only child, and for sure you’ve met one of those weirdos around (you know who you are, Albert Einstein).
While the topic of miscarriage has remained hush-hush and frightening, it doesn’t have to be either of those things. The best way to fight quiet it to talk. The best way to fight fear is with information.
The Bad News And Not-So-Bad News About Miscarriages
Bad news first: there is a 10 to 20-percent chance a miscarriage will occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. The not-so-bad news? By week 14, for most women, the risk of miscarriage drops below 1-percent.
Not only that, but every week that passes, from the moment you find out you’re pregnant, the risk of miscarriage decreases. Once you hear the baby’s heartbeat, the risk becomes nearly negligible for most pregnancies. At that point you’re far better off worrying about how many beers it’s going to take to build that damn crib than mentally preparing yourself for a loss.
Why Miscarriages Happen
The vast majority of miscarriages occur because of chromosomal abnormality that happens at conception or within the first few divisions of the embryo. In these cases there is literally nothing you or your partner could have done differently. It just wasn’t meant to be. And sure, that’s cold comfort, but should ease any burden of guilt.
That said, there are risk factors that can increase the chance of miscarriage in the first 13 weeks. Here are a few things to consider:
- Age: The closer to 40 you are (yes, both of you) the higher the chances of losing the pregnancy become. That increase is certainly sharp for women over 40, but it may surprise you to learn that men over 40 can increase the risk of miscarriage up to 60-percent according to one study.
- Immune Disorders: Lupus is one of several immune disorders that can make it difficult to conceive and carry a baby to full term. But luckily there are some medical interventions that can help.
- Smoking: This one is pretty clear and it’s a bummer that it even remains a thing.
Things Not To Worry About
With all the risk factors in mind, it should be noted that there are things that have been said to increase the chance of miscarriage but are, you’ll be happy to know, quite safe:
- Sex: Just do it.
- Caffeine: At least she can keep one vice, in moderation (in which case, is it even a vice?).
- Being too active: Just live your life, unless your doc tells you to do something different.
- Multiple Miscarriages: This is true up to a point. If you’ve had up to two previous miscarriages there is actually little to no increase in the chances you’ll have another one. After three, however, you’ll want to make sure the doc is following closely.
- Cheese and other foods: The problem with cheese is the risk of Listeria, which can certainly cause bad outcomes. But it’s fairly rare and mostly associated with soft stinky cheeses. She’ll want to skip the brie, but that doesn’t mean she can’t knock back some good ol’ American cheeseburgers. USA! USA!
When A Miscarriage Happens
This is a difficult place for dudes. You will feel the loss, but may not be able to figure out your place in what comes next. These tips might help:
- Understand that absolutely no-one is to blame. Guilt in these circumstances can be a tremendous drain and damage a relationship.
- Know that she is probably having a much tougher time than you. She was carrying the child and had to deal with the physical awfulness of losing it. This is not a grief competition.
- Still, though, you shouldn’t feel like a monster if your grief seems disproportionately small. Everyone comes to grief in different ways. You may just need more time to process.
- Talk it out. Considering how common miscarriage is, it’s likely you know a guy who has gone through this. Don’t keep it inside.
- Be supportive, but not by trying to fix things or being “reassuring.” There is nothing to be fixed and she doesn’t need reassurances of future pregnancies right now. She just needs a shoulder and someone who will listen with an open heart and without judgement.
Miscarriage is a truly shitty thing to experience. And that’s putting it mildly. But know it is not necessarily the end of the story. Keep trying and keep the facts in mind to keep the big fears at bay.