A pregnancy loss doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. Communication is key.
There really is no way to sugarcoat what happens during a miscarriage. Sure, everyone knows of the basics of what happens, technically. But beyond the physical manifestation of a miscarriage, add in the stress, grief, and emotions, and it can be, understandably, complex and confusing. And this can undoubtedly have an impact on your relationship.
Statistics show that around 10 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first trimester. Whether you’re trying to have a baby or it was a surprise, this loss can be both draining and devastating.
While every person will process their loss differently, it can very much be a traumatic event, and for couples, a miscarriage can either bring the two of you together or cause you to drift apart.
Doesn’t seem fair, does it? You’ve just had this devastating event happen, and the last thing you need to worry about is if your relationship is going to survive.
Studies have shown that any trauma can affect your relationship, and this is true for miscarriage. A
Married or cohabitating couples who had a miscarriage were 22 percent more likely to break up as opposed to couples who had a healthy baby at term. For couples who had a stillbirth, this number was even higher, with 40 percent of couples ultimately ending their relationship.
It’s not unusual to drift apart after a miscarriage because grief is complicated. If it’s the first time you and your partner are grieving together, you’re learning about yourself and each other at the same time.
Some people isolate themselves to work through their feelings. Others turn to anything that keeps their mind busy and lose themselves in distractions. Some are more focused on those what-if questions that can get us stuck in guilt.
Worries like, “Will I ever have a child?” “Did I do something to cause this miscarriage?” “Why doesn’t my partner seem as devastated as I am?” are common fears and can lead to friction in a relationship if they’re left undiscussed.
An older study from 2003 discovered that 32 percent of women felt more “interpersonally” distant from their partners one year after a miscarriage and 39 percent felt more distant sexually. When you hear those numbers, it’s not hard to see why there are so many relationships coming to an end after a miscarriage.
While breakup statistics are high, a breakup is certainly not set in stone, especially if you’re aware of how a miscarriage could impact your relationship.
Lead author of one study, Dr. Katherine Gold, associate professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told CNN that you do not need to “be alarmed and assume that just because someone has had a pregnancy loss, they will also have their relationship dissolved.” She points out that many couples actually become closer after a loss.
“It was rough, but my hubby and I chose to grow from it together,” Michelle L. said about her loss. “Just because it was physically my body going through it didn’t mean we both didn’t feel the pain, heartache, and loss. It was his baby too,” she added.
For her relationship, they “choose to embrace each other during these devastating times and rely and lean on each other more. He held me up during my hard days and I in turn held him up when he broke.” She said that seeing each other at their “deepest pain and despair” and “knowing the other person was there no matter what” helped them get through their grief together.
The key to getting through miscarriage together and avoiding negative impacts on your relationship long term comes down to communication. Yes, talking and talking and talking more — to each other would be ideal, but if you’re not ready for that right away, talking to a professional — like a midwife, doctor, or counselor — is a good place to start.
There are so many places you can turn to for support now, thanks to social media and new ways to connect with counselors. If you’re looking for online support or resource articles, my website UnspokenGrief.com or Still Standing Magazine are two resources. If you’re looking for someone in person to talk to, you can search for a grief counselor in your area.
When you think about how much silence there still is around talking about miscarriage and the grief that should be expected after a loss, it’s not surprising many feel alone, even with a partner. When you don’t feel like your partner is mirroring the same sadness, anger, or other feelings that you are, it’s really no surprise that you’ll slowly start to drift apart.
There’s also the issue that if your partner isn’t sure how to help you or how to make the pain go away, they could be more likely to avoid the problems instead of opening up. And these two factors are why talking with each other, or a professional is so vital.
When you go through something traumatic and personal like a miscarriage, and you go through it together, there is a very good chance of coming out the end of it stronger. You’ll have a deeper understanding of empathy, and the small and big things that bring comfort to your partner.
Working through sadness, giving space during anger, and offering support during fear connects you. You’ll strengthen your communication skills with each other, and you’ll know that it’s safe to tell your partner what you need even if it’s not something they want to hear.
However, sometimes no matter how much you try to save your relationship, grief changes you and your trajectory in life. Breakups do happen.
For Casie T., her first loss strained her partnership, but it wasn’t until after their second loss that their marriage ended. “After the second loss, a year later we split up,” she shared.
Going through a miscarriage and the grieving process definitely impacts your relationship, but you may learn something new about each other, see a different strength you didn’t see before, and welcome the transition to parenthood differently than if you had not gone through this together.
Devan McGuinness is a parenting writer and recipient of several awards through her work with UnspokenGrief.com. She focuses on helping others through the hardest and best times in parenthood. Devan lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and four children.