The loss of a baby is usually accompanied by feelings of sadness, disappointment, doubt, confusion and even anger. It not only means the end of a relationship between the developing baby and its parents, but the dreams, hopes and wishes that are a huge part of the pregnancy are lost.
Fortunately, there is much greater awareness now of the impact a pregnancy loss has on both parents, though focus of dealing with a miscarriage still tends to lie heavily on the emotional and psychological effects of the mother. However, it is important to remember that men also experience grief when dealing with the loss of a baby and that miscarriage grief can lead to depression, stress and other emotional problems. This is particularly true if recurrent miscarriages have occurred. Male grief can often be overlooked or forgotten.
The experience of pregnancy loss, whether miscarriage, stillbirth, failed IVF attempts or ectopic pregnancy, can have a long-term effect on men, especially because most men are not taught how to express their emotions. Men are generally taught to squash their feelings from an early age, and to adopt a position of invulnerability or “acting tough”.
When a man experiences emotional distress he may automatically deny his pain and isolate himself. This may indicate to others that he is coping well, is strong or in many instances may signal to his partner that he is unaffected by the loss or doesn’t care. However, the truth may be quite the opposite. He may feel a great sense of sadness but doesn’t permit himself a period of mourning. Instead a man’s grief is often demonstrated through irritability, anger management and addiction.
It is important for men to understand that feeling sad, anxious, guilty or upset are all normal emotions when coping with miscarriage and that expressing these feelings and talking is often the first step to healing.
Men could be at greater risk of not fully healing from the loss because of the way they try to manage their grief. They may feel helpless in the face of their partner’s grief, but it is important that male grief is acknowledged as an important part of their humanity and sensitivity.
Talking about your emotions, and voicing your own needs is crucial to maintaining both respect and a strong bond with your partner, which is central to beginning the journey towards a new pregnancy after a miscarriage or failed IVF attempt.
Because men do not experience the physical symptoms of miscarriage, it can sometimes be difficult for them to understand the emotions that women experience after a pregnancy loss. While you may feel that getting pregnant is just a matter of time, your partner may feel that pregnancy after miscarriage is an unreachable goal. It is important to listen to your partner and reassure her that it is okay to be upset. Understanding your partner’s feelings is vital to regaining her sense of confidence and optimism, and helps her to work through the grief and uncertainty that miscarriage and especially recurrent miscarriage often bring.
Mutual support and understanding are key to a more fulfilling relationship, and talking together and tears are healing. Acknowledging the sadness and loss of your hopes and dreams for the future is important, and don’t be afraid to cry. It might take time but it will lead to a greater self-awareness and a happier, closer bond with your partner.