A new paper suggests that miscarriages are poorly misunderstood—and the way medical professionals respond to them is part of the problem.
When I had a miscarriage, I heard the same few things over and over again.
"This is an incredibly common thing."
"So many people experience this."
"You can try again soon."
"It will all be okay."
But it didn't feel okay—it felt like I was breaking inside. And living in a world that barely recognizes the physical, emotional, mental and financial realities of miscarriages (and the people who suffer them) certainly didn't help me put myself back together in the aftermath of my own.
In my experience, people treat miscarriages like something their sufferers need to simply move through. We're not afforded a grieving period by our employers or our nearest and dearest. We're not encouraged to seek mental health care. We're not given the space to look for answers or clarity. Our cultural attitudes towards miscarriages are changing, yes. But we still have a long, long way to go—and now, a scientific journal is recognizing that.
The medical journal The Lancet published a series of papers on the effects of miscarriage—and the importance of reform surrounding the ways we address this issue. The papers point out some factors that can affect your chances of suffering one (like age, body mass index, race, stress, air pollution and exposure to pesticides), as well as some of the less-discussed repercussions of miscarriage, like a higher likelihood of both mental health issues, future obstetric complications and long-term health issues. And the papers make an important point: Miscarriage is poorly understood (see: commonly held misconceptions, like the idea that lifting a heavy object or a history of contraceptive use can trigger a pregnancy loss).
But the papers hint at the idea that miscarriages aren't just poorly understood by the general public, but also by the medical community. The authors suggest we need to learn more about diagnosing, preventing and managing miscarriages. They point out that pregnancy loss occurs most commonly in low-income areas, where access to quality care or resources is often absent. And then there's criticism of one common model of care surrounding recurrent miscarriages. In many cases, women receive little to no testing until they've miscarried three times—imagine how much heartbreak we could save families if we addressed any issues that could potentially be causing these miscarriages before a person had to experience this heartbreak three times over.
The overarching thought to come from these papers? Miscarriage sufferers deserve better. They shouldn't be told to just "try again". And in 2021, when we know that an estimated 23 million pregnancies end worldwide, it's incredibly disappointing that we still haven't reached a place where people who are affected by this devastating issue aren't better supported by the healthcare community, their employers or their personal circles.
In an editorial written with all these findings in mind, the authors make it very clear that we need worldwide reform where miscarriage care is concerned.
"For too long miscarriage has been minimized and often dismissed. The lack of medical progress should be shocking. Instead, there is a pervasive acceptance," the authors write. "Not all miscarriages could be avoided, but the insidious implication that miscarriage, like other women's reproductive health issues, including menstrual pain and menopause, should be managed with minimal medical intervention is ideological, not evidence-based. This Series should catalyze a major focus on miscarriage for the medical research community, for service providers, and for policymakers. The era of telling women to 'just try again' is over."
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