Taboo is an overused word in the media, isn’t it? Miscarriage, in particular, is often described as one of the “last taboos,” although I’ve also seen the label attached to menopause, periods, postpartum depression, finances, pelvic organ prolapse, and male incontinence. . When Carrie Johnson announced last weekend that she was expecting another baby this Christmas following a miscarriage she described as “heartbreaking,” the word made headlines again: “Carrie’s rainbow baby helps break the miscarriage taboo.” .
I understand the urge to come up with this kind of language. When I had my first miscarriage, four years ago, it was as if I had entered a cave of white noise. Leaving the pregnancy unit early that day with nothing to show for my three-month pregnancy other than a pair of hospital paper pants and a flimsy information pamphlet, I felt numb and empty. emptied – and I tried to remember a single conversation I had had about this. The best thing I could think of were a few lines in an old episode of Sex and the City.
So the tropes of “break the silence” and “speak” feel somewhat correct. Despite being told by doctors that it is incredibly common, when you have a miscarriage you still feel lonely and adrift in a world that fetishizes pregnancy, but encourages people to keep it a secret during the first trimester, when they are pregnant. estimates that 85% of miscarriages occur. .
I continued to lose three more pregnancies in just under two years. Each loss fell like a stone to the empty places within me, piling up like a heap of disappointment, lost possibilities, and hypothetical children. I wrote mostly on the go, for newspapers and magazines, and also through my own blog. But I was far from the only one talking about it.
Since my first miscarriage, Michelle Obama, the Duchess of Sussex, Chrissy Teigen, Alex Jones, Myleene Klass, Stacey Solomon, Gemma Collins, and Beyoncé have spoken publicly about their losses. MP Olivia Blake recently told her personal story in Parliament, no less. Is the correct word really taboo? Was it ever?
Johnson is not the prime minister’s first wife to go public about a miscarriage. Cherie Blair lost a baby almost 20 years ago. What’s surprising about some of the coverage from that era is how little things have changed. News reports refer to pain and anguish. One feature comforts Cherie that she shouldn’t blame herself, that miscarriage is sometimes “just bad luck.”
We seem to be unable to shake off a general sense of fatalism that surrounds miscarriage. It is still perceived by many as simply “nature’s way,” a sad but ultimately natural and necessary kind of quality control. But this belief is based on a misunderstanding. Some experts now believe that up to half of all miscarriages are actually healthy and chromosomally “normal” embryos. In other words, these losses could theoretically be avoided. However, research on the causes of miscarriage is scant. As are the reliable treatments.
In the UK, people qualify for more medical research only after they have experienced three miscarriages in a row. Even then, about half of those who seek explanations for their multiple miscarriages will get no answers. Sometimes all the best specialists can tell you is “keep trying.” Unless miscarriage care and research improves, women will continue to feel abandoned and alone when it happens to them, no matter how many stories they may have heard before. We will continue to play pass the pack with the same poor and unsatisfactory medical data year after year.
Although we are frequently reminded of how common miscarriage is, in the UK there is currently no adequate and complete record of the number that occurs each year. The Tommys baby loss charity finds that 20% of women who have miscarried will go on to experience clinical post-traumatic stress disorder, while the risk of suicide is quadrupled.
A request from the charity, which has more than 222,000 signatures, led the government to agree to record the number of miscarriages each year as part of its women’s health strategy. This is a long overdue step in taking miscarriage more seriously, but there are still more important cultural changes that need to occur, such as workplace policies that mean women are comfortable disclosing they are pregnant early on. without fear of redundancy, discrimination or the stigma of the “Mummy Track”.
Sharing experiences can be powerful – I know first-hand that other people’s accounts can feel like a life raft. But I wonder if, by framing miscarriage as a taboo, we run the risk of implying that talking is the only necessary remedy, or even all of that. may be done. It’s an approach that can unknowingly fill all kinds of data gaps, structural inequalities, and gaps in healthcare. Perhaps what we need to ask ourselves is not so much why we are not talking about miscarriage, but why we are not listening.
Jennie Agg is a freelance journalist specializing in women’s health.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be reached by calling 116 123 or by emailing [email protected] or [email protected] In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the Lifeline crisis support service is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism