Miscarriage is one of those things in our culture that so many people experience but few like to talk about. Miscarriage as a queer person can be even more challenging. The grief of pregnancy loss is often confounded with financial stress and the logistical challenges of trying to get pregnant when you don’t have all the parts to make a baby in your relationship.
While each person’s experience is their own, there are common threads that LGBTQ+ people come up against when going through miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
If you are going through these difficult experiences, we hope that this article offers you some of the information you need and the emotional support and resources that you deserve in navigating through this deeply challenging time.
What causes miscarriage?
Anywhere from 10% to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. The vast majority of miscarriages occur during the first trimester of pregnancy—miscarriages after 13 weeks of pregnancy are much less common.
The majority of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities in the growing fetus. Pregnancy loss later in pregnancy can also be associated with health conditions like some autoimmune disorders, toxin exposure, infection and physical trauma.
In the vast majority of cases, miscarriages are unpreventable. So no, it’s not because you drank three cups of coffee that day or went for a long run. And if there is an underlying cause, your primary care provider, midwife or OBGYN can help you figure out what’s going on.
What happens during a miscarriage, and when to seek help
There are a number of ways miscarriages can occur. When most people think of miscarriage, they imagine a spontaneous miscarriage, where a person notices spotting or bleeding in the hours or days prior, then uterine cramping starts that pushes the body to miscarry the pregnancy. After what was inside the uterus comes out, bleeding may remain, but usually tapers off significantly, lasting a few weeks.
That may happen. But in reality, many miscarriages are discovered by ultrasound in a clinical setting. Once they discover that a pregnancy has passed, the person miscarrying has the option to wait to release the pregnancy naturally, on their body’s own timeline, or to use medical interventions to complete the miscarriage.
Medical interventions include taking a medication called Misoprostol or having an in-patient procedure called a D&C. When taking medication, people can complete the miscarriage at home, usually within 24 hours. During a D&C, a provider uses a sterile tool to suction the contents inside the uterus, a procedure which is usually performed under some type of sedation.
If, during or after a miscarriage, you are soaking through more than two large pads per hour, continue bleeding heavily for more than 24 to 48 hours, or ever feel faint or lightheaded, seek medical support immediately.
Physical and emotional recovery time
The emotional and physical experience following a miscarrage is as diverse as the people experiencing them. Some people experience grief for a long time after miscarriage, while others start feeling more like themselves within a few weeks. There is no right way to experience miscarriage, but if you’re struggling to keep your head above water, we suggest seeking professional support (and offer more tools for healing later in this article).
There is also no “right time” to start trying to get pregnant again after experiencing miscarriage. Some people will feel ready to start trying again right away—others will need a few months (or more) to process and grieve their loss before trying to conceive a new baby.
How to find support as a queer person experiencing a miscarriage
Find a provider you trust: If you are queer, it is hugely important to have a care provider with whom you feel safe and who values and supports the specific needs of your queer family. This is especially vital when experiencing the grief of pregnancy loss.
Find a Facebook group: It’s helpful when experiencing miscarriage to find other queer people who have gone through similar experiences. If you don’t know anyone in your community who has miscarried while queer, you can look for Facebook Groups like this one or similar support groups for LGBTQ+ pregnancy loss.
Reach out for online support: Empty Arms Bereavement Support is an online organization supporting people after experiences of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. You can text 413-570-0811 and send the message "LGBTQ+ Support”; when they receive your message, they will have one of their pregnancy loss support leaders give you a call as soon as they can.
The Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Support Centre also offers a text line or online chat tool for individuals experiencing any type of loss, and is dedicated to supporting individuals of all faiths, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities.
Here are a few other self-care tips to help you process your miscarriage:
Embrace your grief
In our culture, we don’t always give ourselves permission to grieve. When we cry, our bodies produce oxytocin and endorphins, two hormones that help us release and heal emotional pain. It’s healthy to grieve and it will help you process your experience on a cellular level. If you have a hard time accessing your grief, getting professional care is hugely beneficial.
Journaling is a useful tool in helping us process our emotions. It can feel so supportive to have a completely safe, non judgmental place to process all of your thoughts and emotions after a loss, knowing that no one will ever read it or judge what you are thinking or feeling.
Seek out therapy
Many people benefit from professional support when processing and grieving a miscarriage. Therapists can also be extremely supportive to helping you decide on your next steps regarding conception and help you process any anxiety in future pregnancies. Search for a therapist who specializes in LGBTQ+ issues and/or fertility support. Pride Counseling, Gaylesta, and others all have directories of therapists specializing in serving the LGBTQ+ community.
Support groups and other resources
One of the things that makes experiencing a miscarriage so hard is that it often feels so isolating. To counteract that isolation, some people benefit from participating in a support group for pregnancy loss.
There are many groups on Facebook available for LGBTQ+ and solo parents trying to conceive, but few specifically addressing pregnancy loss. My Fertility Coach: LGBTQ and TTC is a large, inclusive LGBTQ fertility support group that members talk openly about miscarriage experience. Our Family Coalition also offers support groups that may address your needs.
Some people will also find working with a full spectrum doula helpful for continuous emotional and physical support through the miscarriage process. Many queer and trans doulas offer individualized support for people going through pregnancy loss. You can find queer doulas in your area through the Queer Doula Network.
Some people find it helpful to create a ritual around pregnancy loss. Through ceremony and ritual, we can mark the end of one phase and invite in a new one.
When engaging in ritual and ceremony, it’s especially powerful to work with tools rooted in your own culture and ancestry. If this is a new concept, keep it simple: light a candle, write feelings to let go of on a piece of paper, and then burn the paper (in a safe way).
Others may find it meaningful to bury the tissue they miscarried in their backyard, plant a tree or write a letter to their lost potential child.
A note from Motherly
Miscarriage is a normal, albeit heartbreaking, experience for childbearing people. As queer people, not only do we have to deal with the grief of losing our potential child, we also have to navigate the often challenging logistics of creating a child when we don’t have abundant access to sperm.
If you are LGBTQ+ and have experienced miscarriage, we hope this article supports you to feel a little less alone, and helps you access the type of care and support that you deeply deserve.