Couples relationships are often affected after a miscarriage. It can bring you closer, or build a wedge between you. Part of that depends on the state of the relationship prior to the pregnancy, whether the pregnancy was planned or a surprise, and so on. My comments are based on couples who wanted the pregnancy to proceed.
After a miscarriage, couples may view the miscarriage differently. Neither is right or wrong. It gives couples a chance to stand in each other shoes: often the woman experiences a miscarriage as the loss of a baby, while many men think of it as the process toward having a family. Think of two radio stations: the “emo” and the “info” stations. She may be trying to communicate on the emo channel, while he may be on the info channel. This is a recipe for miscommunication and misunderstandings. Put yourself in each other’s shoes. Once you do, it can bring you closer.
A miscarriage may open a discussion between you regarding genetic testing and decisions about that. If you found out your baby had markers for Down’s Syndrome, for example, would you proceed? Again, there is no right or wrong answer, but a tremendous consideration for an entire family. This is a very difficult topic and may require a third party to help get your assorted thoughts out on the table. But having an important conversation about this can create further intimacy.
To ensure that a miscarriage brings you closer, rededicate your love for each other: do more couple activities before becoming parents, and address any couple issues you may have as parenthood will only magnify them a hundred-fold.
After a miscarriage, is there anything positive that couples who are eager to get pregnant can take from the experience?
To have a positive take-away after you have a miscarriage, it may help to remember that while 37% of women have a miscarriage, only 1% of women have another miscarriage.
Since miscarriage is often a hidden grief, it also can be very helpful and powerful to tell others about the miscarriage. Women will likely find out many of their friends and colleagues have had a miscarriage, and will hear others’ miscarriage stories. While men rarely talk about emotional things, they will likely find other men who have been through miscarriage. Talking with others helps build community, is normalizing, and helps couples feel less isolated with their loss.
Does a woman’s (and a man’s) perception of pregnancy change after they’ve had a miscarriage?
Even though the lovely, ignorant, simple joy of the first pregnancy is gone, usually after one miscarriage there's not much change in many couple’s perception of pregnancy. But some people do worry or feel anxious a lot more in the early weeks. However, they may be more cautious about telling others about a subsequent pregnancy until they have reached the 12th week. Each partner and couple are unique, however, and will feel as they do.
After two or more pregnancies the couple's perception may change, as they begin to wonder what is going on. About 60% of miscarriage is due to a chromosome abnormality. Both partners may want to get a thorough physical, and have the genetic material tested, even though 50 to 75% of the time testing won't reveal specific answers.
How do women (and their partners) view their own subsequent pregnancy(ies) after miscarriage? Are they more grateful, less apt to complain about pregnancy symptoms, etc?
Many women feel relief and joy to be pregnant again. It is perhaps tinged with a bit of a "let's wait and see" attitude by both partners. Women may be extremely careful with their diet, skipping alcohol (even before getting pregnant), and so on to ensure they don't do anything to cause another miscarriage. The sad truth is, nearly all women ask themselves if the miscarriage was their fault (it definitely wasn't), and/or feel their body failed them. This might be an area for husbands to ask about and reinforce it's not her fault, and offer support.
Being able to complain about pregnancy symptoms like any other woman is a freedom that indicates having worked through the miscarriage.
Do couples parent differently if they’ve experienced miscarriage with a prior pregnancy?
If parents have one miscarriage it's unlikely that they will parent differently than if they had not had a miscarriage. Parenting is exhausting work: that is true whether not you've had a miscarriage.
If parents have had multiple miscarriages it's more likely they will parent differently. After miscarriage some parents spoil their kids, even though that's not healthy. It does not serve the child in either their child- or adulthood to raise entitled children. We want to raise resilient, resourceful, compassionate kids growing into healthy adults.
Although I view my son as a miracle child, I did not want to raise a spoiled child. I had seven pregnancies and one son. My joy in having him is tremendous. Still, I wanted to raise a healthy, well-adjusted man, so my parenting was geared toward integrity, compassion, listening, boundaries, and allowing his true-self to emerge.
Five Do’s and Don'ts for Surviving Miscarriage
1. Let yourself feel your feelings (they don't go away by being swept under the rug). Share them with your partner. Partner: listen well, even if your view is different. Then give empathy: e.g., "Honey, I know this is heartbreaking for you. I'm here with you. "
2. Warning: this is a gender-based comment. Recognize that often women feel they've lost a baby, and therefore the entire future without the eventual adult child. Men often think miscarriage as a setback in the process of having a family. They may not feel it as the loss of a baby. Neither is right or wrong. Honor your partner’s view with compassion.
3. Focus on building deeper intimacy as a couple as a result of this shared loss. Let it build character in each of you and strength for other challenges that are sure to come in life. Talk about how you're handling this together and ask for what you need.
4. Be with your partner when she is having a miscarriage, even if it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for you. Cancel all your meetings, and make it a priority to do whatever you need to do to be with her. If your brain goes into a fight or flight response, resist it and stay put.
5. Seek professional support if you're having trouble working through it, e.g., your sadness is becoming depression, or if your couples communication is breaking down.
1. Don't blame yourself; you did not do anything to cause this miscarriage.
2. Don't pretend it didn't happen. Talking about it with each other and other people will let it be real. It did happen; and that helps normalize your experience as part of generations of humanity.
3. Don't wallow in it. I realize I just said to feel your feelings and don't pretend it didn't happen. Use your resilience to both acknowledge what happened and not wallow in it. Do activities you enjoy, eat well, exercise and give excellent care to yourself and your partner. Don't drink much, it's a depressant.
4. Don't be surprised or take it personally if people say things that are meant to help, but are hurtful. For example, "Well, you can always try again." or "Your baby is in heaven now."
5. Don't worry about another miscarriage – only 1% of women have multiple miscarriages.
Lastly, but not least: when you get pregnant again, enjoy it with your heart and soul.
For frequently asked questions about miscarriage, visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists FAQ