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Men & Pregnancy Loss: Explained

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 

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. 

 

Tommy’s 

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.  

 

SANDS

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. 

 

Men & Miscarriage 

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. 

 

Him Fertility Meet Ups 

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. 

 

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.