A guide for fathers on coping with miscarriage

28th, November 2014

A guide for fathers on coping with miscarriage. It's time to forget the traditional notions of what the man is supposed to do and focus on what matters.

“How's she coping?”. Our first instinct when dealing with a friend or family member who has suffered a miscarriage is often to focus on the welfare of the mother in the relationship. Men are commonly expected to be strong and supportive, not least by themselves. These expectations of what “the man” should do can weigh heavily on the father, creating uncertainty and obscuring the healing process for him. Here’s a guide to things the father might like to consider.

It’s a shared experience

Whilst the mother has suffered the physical ordeal that is difficult for a man to imagine, there remains a number of shared experiences. On finding out you are pregnant, you begin to visualise your child; how they might look, how they’ll interact with you or the journey you’ll take through life as a new family unit. You pick names for the unborn child, read countless pregnancy books or parenting books and may even start buying things that your baby might need. You dream about the best case scenario making a miscarriage even more devastating.

A miscarriage is the loss of pregnancy during the first 23 weeks and as many as 1 in 5 pregnancies will end this way. You can reduce the risk of miscarriage by avoiding alcohol, smoking and drugs during pregnancy. Some couples are unfortunate to suffer recurrent miscarriages. In this case there are a number of specialist clinical tests that can be carried out that may help to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Whether it is the first miscarriage a couple have suffered or it is a recurrent problem, the emotional and physical strain on a couple can be significant.

Your partner

A common reaction for fathers-to-be is to be more upset at your partner’s distress at losing a baby. Feelings of helplessness and inadequacy are common.

There are a number of things you might like to consider:

  • Understand your partner’s grief - don’t expect her to be able to move on too soon. Some people need time to process what has happened before they can even talk about it.

  • Embrace emotion - it’s a sad time. Be there for your partner if she cries and remember, just because you are a man, it doesn’t mean you can’t cry.

  • Spend time together - this can help you both to not feel isolated and to talk through what has happened. There may be no “quick fix”.

  • People react differently - for many, a miscarriage is still deemed to be a person that you’ve lost. You need to understand your partner’s point of view if it is different to yours.

The initial reaction

Denial, shock, anger and blaming yourself are all natural feelings. The healing process is helped by time.

Many dads will feel helplessness as they watch their partner grieve. It’s important that you have all of the information and don’t resort to blaming yourself or your partner. There can be a number of causes for multiple miscarriages and it is a common problem. You aren’t alone!

Talk to people

Talking to people helps. Don’t be afraid to talk to friends and family, they’ll be keen to help. Work colleagues or people you don’t know so well, may avoid you or purposely make small talk for fear of saying the wrong thing, but try not to be offended by people’s reaction, it’s a complex area and there are many misconceptions about miscarriage. It is difficult for others to know the “right thing to say” but your loved ones will want to help.

You can also seek professional counselling for miscarriage, which may help you to come to terms with any grief.

People might say the wrong thing

When comforting your partner or when other people are comforting you, it is very easy to say the wrong thing. “At least you know you can get pregnant,”; “You can try again soon,”; “It happens a lot.” These are all things that people may say to try and make you and your partner feel better but it probably won’t. Be prepared for this and don’t be afraid to seek information and help from those who have been in a similar situation themselves.

Time off

There are no legal requirements for time off work after you’ve suffered a miscarriage, but most employers should understand you may need at least a few days. Because of the emotional and physical strain on couples it may be difficult to focus on your job. You may feel tired and emotionally drained so taking some form of compassionate leave may be recommended, not least as it will allow you to spend time with your partner.

If you're concerned about suffering multiple miscarriages, you can get advice at our Belfast Miscarriage Clinic

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