Pregnancy loss can leave you feeling lost and alone, but the truth is that it’s more common than you may think. Around 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, so it’s important that we talk about it more openly, to help both men and women feel less isolated. Whilst it’s true that women may go through a tougher physical experience when losing a baby, men feel all of the heartbreak too – and often don’t know who to turn to.
If you’re a man who has been through pregnancy loss, it’s ok to feel however you are feeling – and there are many places you can get support. Here’s some of our advice on how to navigate loss on your road to becoming a father.
What is pregnancy loss?
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that pregnancy loss can come in many forms – and all are equally valid and can hurt just as much. Miscarriage is the most common term associated with pregnancy loss – but that isn’t the full picture. Understanding the different terms can help you communicate your feelings better and feel validated that whatever type of loss you have been through. Your grief is very real.
Early Miscarriage – Most pregnancy losses occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – and they are known as an early miscarriage.
Missed Miscarriage – Missed miscarriages also usually happen in the first trimester, but they don’t come with any of the classic signs of miscarriage – like bleeding and pain. Because of this they are often only discovered at the 12-week scan. This can be a huge shock, and make the loss harder to cope with.
Late miscarriage – There’s no exact timeframe for a late miscarriage, but it generally refers to anything after the first trimester. These losses are rarer, but do happen – and can be very tough to deal with.
Stillbirth – A stillbirth refers to the death of a baby just before or during labour. This can be very traumatic – but nowadays it is a lot rarer than other forms of pregnancy loss. However, they do happen and there are some great charities that deal with this specific type of loss.
Ectopic Pregnancy – An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants outside of the womb. This not only means that the egg won’t develop into a baby, but can also be very dangerous for the mother – this usually requires medication or surgery to effectively terminate the pregnancy. You may only find out a pregnancy is ectopic after a positive pregnancy test, so the feelings of loss can be similar to if you were going through an early miscarriage.
Failed IVF Cycles – You may not always associate a failed IVF cycle with pregnancy loss – but the truth is that when going through assisted fertility you will be full of hope and start to imagine the possibility of becoming pregnant. If the process doesn’t work, you can feel the same emotions of grief and loss as you would with a miscarriage.
Men and pregnancy loss
Pregnancy loss is always hard to navigate, but as a male partner, there are many reasons why you might find it especially difficult to process your emotions or know what to do.
You want to protect your partner
This is such a common narrative that guys tell themselves following pregnancy loss. If you have a female partner, it is totally understandable that you will feel protective of them during this time. Women undoubtedly go through a lot of physical, as well as emotional trauma, when losing a baby – and as a caring supportive partner, it is natural that you want to make them feel safe and looked after. However, it’s important to remember that you are allowed to feel heartbroken too – this was your baby as well.
In the wake of loss, you and your partner will need to be there for each other. One day you may feel stronger, and other times you may be the one who needs support. Never be afraid to express your feelings to your partner and don’t feel the need to put up a front – they may actually find it helpful to see you are hurting just as much as they are.
You are grieving differently
Everyone grieves differently – and losing a baby is such a unique experience that can affect people in different ways. In her book, The Brink of Being, Pregnancy Loss expert Julia Bueno talks about the different ways men and women grieve when they lose a baby. She explains that women often tend to be ‘intuitive grievers’ – seeking support and wanting to talk about their feelings. On the flip side, many men are ‘instrumental grievers’ and want to channel their heartbreak into action – like running a marathon for Tommy’s charity.
Whilst these are generalisations – not all women and men are going to fit into these categories – it’s interesting to recognise that you may be dealing with the loss differently from your partner, and that is ok. Again, communication is key here. If your partner wants to talk about their feelings and you don’t, they may feel like you don’t care or empathise with what they are going through. Explain to them how you are processing things in your own way and this will help you support each other moving forward.
You feel like you need to be strong
As men, we’re often taught culturally that masculinity is all about being strong – not vulnerable. But that’s simply not true. There is nothing wrong with crying, asking for help or admitting you’re struggling. When faced with something as devastating as pregnancy loss, trying to put a brave face on and internalising our emotions can have a massive impact on our mental health, and can make it even harder to move through the grieving process. Being honest about your emotions will not only help you find the support you need, but it can also bring you closer to your partner and show them that you’re sat in the grief with them. We need to unlearn everything we have been told about what ‘being a man’ is about, and instead recognise that opening up about our feelings is the ultimate sign of strength.
You struggle to talk about your feelings
Sometimes, even if you want to open up about your feelings, you can’t quite find the words – especially when dealing with pregnancy loss. If talking about your feelings doesn’t come naturally to you – why not try writing them down? Journaling can be a really helpful way to get all of the thoughts in your head down on paper. It can help make things feel less overwhelming, identify emotional triggers or make an action plan for how to move forward.
Writing a letter to your baby or your partner can also be another cathartic way to articulate what you’re going through. It doesn’t even need to be a letter you send to someone! Getting things down on paper can sometimes be enough for you to feel more confident in talking about your feelings and can form the basis of some really important and helpful conversations.
Where men can get support for pregnancy loss
It’s easy to feel lost and alone during this time – but there are so many men who understand what you’re going through and lots of places you can get support. Here are just a few:
The Miscarriage Association is a great place to start if you and your partner have experienced loss. They have a host of resources, forums and meet ups available.
Another brilliant charity is Tommy’s. Not only are they doing lots of incredible research in to miscarriage and pregnancy loss, but they also offer lots of advice and opportunities to raise money for them in honour of your baby’s memory.
The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity (SANDS) specialise in supporting people and couples of have been through very late miscarriage or loss shortly after a baby is born. They offer local and online meet-ups, connecting you with people who understand what you’re going through.
Over the last few years, male focused communities dealing with infertility have sprung up on social media – and Miscarriage for Men is a great place to find connection and support through Instagram. They’ve also recorded a couple of great podcast episodes recently, which will really resonate if you are navigating baby loss.
Friend of ExSeed Ian Stones hosts a monthly all-guys meet up through Fertility Network UK. The group discusses everything from male infertility to loss, and is an amazingly supportive community that’s growing all the time.