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Coping with early miscarriage: A guide for partners

17 September 2019

Contents

The first few days or weeks following an early miscarriage can be incredibly challenging. An unexpected miscarriage can be a traumatic and painful experience. There may be feelings of shock, sadness or anger over the loss of a pregnancy. Some people can experience a strong sense of guilt after an early miscarriage - as if they were somehow to blame.

An early miscarriage can also have a profound impact on partners. According to research conducted by University College London (UCL), partners can often feel intense sadness, grief or shock.

58% of men surveyed for the same UCL research paper said that they struggled to concentrate following the loss of the pregnancy, and a further 47% reported problems sleeping.

If your partner has recently suffered a miscarriage, you may also find that you:

  • feel overwhelmed by a sense of loss
  • feel fearful or anxious about the prospect of future pregnancies
  • do not know how to handle your grief
  • feel helpless or a loss of control
  • feel pressure to be supportive and strong for your partner at the expense of your own needs
  • struggle to communicate your feelings, or talk about the miscarriage with your partner
  • worry about saying the wrong thing, and upsetting your partner

These feelings are common, and represent a natural response to the trauma of an early miscarriage. Studies published in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology show that people respond to miscarriages in different ways, and there is no right or wrong way to feel about the loss of a pregnancy.

A miscarriage can place a significant strain on your relationship, particularly if you or your partner:

  • feel like you’re not being heard, or that you have unmet needs
  • try to hide your emotions
  • avoid addressing the issue altogether
  • try to be overly positive or rush each other through the grieving process

Advice published by Stanford University indicates that opening up and sharing your feelings can help to counteract the effect that a miscarriage can have on your relationship.

In this article, you’ll find guidance to help you process the loss of your pregnancy, information designed to help you support your partner in this difficult time, and practical tips to help you cope with the emotional impact of an early miscarriage.

Understanding early miscarriages

If you have lost a pregnancy, you may find it helpful to start by learning about early miscarriages.

Early miscarriages are relatively common. In fact, 12-24% of all recognised pregnancies end in miscarriage, and some doctors think the real number may be higher, as a lot of miscarriages occur before the mother even realises she is pregnant.

Approximately 85% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester (or 13 weeks) of pregnancy.

Some common causes of miscarriage include:

  • genetic abnormalities, including random chromosomal abnormalities that can prevent a baby from developing properly
  • abnormal hormone levels, particularly in women with thyroid or adrenal gland problems
  • certain infections and illnesses, including rubella, ureaplasma and chlamydia
  • immunological issues
  • structural problems, including problems with the shape of the uterus and the strength of the cervix

Your partner may blame themselves for the miscarriage, but it is unlikely to be their fault. Most miscarriages are caused by factors we cannot control. It’s important to note that everyday activities like exercising, working, and having sex do not cause miscarriages.

Processing your feelings

Everybody processes grief in different ways. If your partner has suffered a miscarriage, you may find that you feel a range of complex emotions, including:

  • shock
  • anger
  • sadness
  • despair
  • numbness or a sense of emptiness
  • feelings of failure or inadequacy
  • feelings of helplessness or frustration
  • a sense of anxiety

It is also common for partners to feel lonely, isolated or neglected. You might find that you struggle to communicate your needs, or feel pressure to put your feelings aside so that you can focus on supporting your partner.

Sometimes, you may feel that your emotions are unjustified or unearned because you never got to meet your baby.

Alternatively, you may find that you just feel disappointed, relieved or guilty for not sharing your partner's grief, especially if you were not enthusiastic about the prospect of parenthood, or did not know about the pregnancy beforehand.

All of these feelings are valid: there is no ‘right’ way to feel about a miscarriage. Grief manifests in different ways, and your own, individual response will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • the amount of time that you’ve spent planning the pregnancy
  • how real the pregnancy felt to you
  • how excited you were at the prospect of being a parent (again)
  • whether you’ve seen an ultrasound scan or felt the baby move

If you are struggling to cope with your emotions, try to share your feelings with your partner, a family member or a close friend. Alternatively, reach out to a support group or engage a therapist. It can be difficult to talk about your feelings at first, particularly if you are embarrassed or feel that it is your job to remain strong in the face of adversity.

Talking can be helpful, and many people find it gets easier once you have started to open up. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help you to process feelings of grief, helplessness or anxiety. CBT is designed to help you challenge and change negative thought processes, and may provide you with the toolkit needed to cope with loss.

CBT can be delivered one-on-one, in a group, or as an online service. Or you could try CBT with Braive.

Note: If you feel stuck with your grief - or you find that your emotions are interfering with your day to day life - contact your doctor. They may be able to help you find a grief counselor or suggest a more hands-on solution for your issues.

Above all, remember to give yourself time, and seek support if you are really struggling. It can be tempting to put on a brave face, but there is no shame in seeking help if you are feeling overwhelmed.

Supporting your partner

It is common to feel real grief after a miscarriage, and you may notice that your partner is experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. They may exhibit signs of bereavement, and express feelings of:

  • tiredness and lethargy
  • guilt
  • shock
  • sadness
  • anger at the situation, you, hospital staff, her family or herself
  • jealousy towards other pregnant women or babies
  • numbness
  • anxiety or depression

You may notice that your partner loses their appetite, is tearful, or has trouble sleeping.

Miscarriages can be hard to talk about. They also affect everyone differently, so keep an eye on your partner, and follow up on their feelings whenever you can. Some people may find it comforting to talk through their emotions, while others may find the subject too painful to discuss, and require more practical support.

Try to be supportive of your partner's feelings and avoid making them feel like they are processing their miscarriage incorrectly. The road to recovery can be long and difficult, so let your partner know they have time to grieve, and that you are there for them.

Encourage them to talk about their emotions, but be respectful if they shut down or try to change the subject. In some cases, it may help to open up about your own emotions too. This can help your partner know that you’re serious about listening to them.

Experts at the UK-based Miscarriage Association say that talking to each other is perhaps the best thing you can do to help your partner, especially if you allow them to go over their own emotions as many times as they need to.

Depending on your doctor’s advice, it may help to encourage your partner to engage in everyday activities, like going for a walk or visiting friends.

You can find more practical tips for coping with early miscarriage on the Tommy’s website, including advice that may help you to support your partner.

Looking to the future

Some people come to terms with their miscarriage fairly quickly, but it can take months or even years to fully process the grief associated with a lost pregnancy. Try not to rush the process, but remember that you and your partner will recover in time.

You may find that experiencing a miscarriage has permanently altered your relationship, but that dosen’t have to be a bad thing. If you work to support each other, you may find that your relationship is strengthened, and that you have a new appreciation for your partner.

Some couples do try to conceive again, and often go on to have a healthy baby. Other couples find the idea of planning another pregnancy too traumatic - and that’s OK too. There’s no reason to decide now. Focus on processing your grief and supporting each other in the short-term.

Miscarriage support groups and resources

Select a resource below if you feel you need additional support during the recovery process:

Miscarriage Association - a UK-based organisation that offers information and support to help you cope with miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies

Tommy’s - a UK-based charity that offers miscariage support for grieving families

Sands - a UK-based charity that offers bereavment support to families who have suffered a miscarriage

Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND) - a US-based charity that offers help and support to grieving families

March of Dimes - a US-based organisation that specialises in supporting struggling mothers

International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA) - a large group of charitable organisations that work globally to improve bereavement care

You can read more about signs of early miscarriage and how miscarriages happen via our miscarriage page, or download our app for more targeted advice.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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