When you think of pregnancy and infant loss, what comes to mind? Likely sadness – maybe you know someone or have heard about someone who has experienced such a loss. Maybe you feel relieved that it was not your experience and that your children are happy and thriving.
No matter how the topic makes you feel, the fact remains that pregnancy and infant loss is one of the most stigmatizing experiences in our society today. At best, the topic is considered sad or unpleasant, and at worst our society sends a silent message to the parents who have lost a child that their experience makes the collective “us” uncomfortable, forcing these parents to process their grief in silence. As October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, let’s take a few moments to shed light on this experience.
While the topic may feel uncomfortable, pregnancy and infant loss is far more common than we are led to believe. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) a stillbirth is defined as the loss of a baby at 20 weeks gestation or later. About 1 out of every 100 pregnancies results in a stillbirth, or about 24,000 pregnancies per year.
Additionally, the CDC defines infant mortality as the death of an infant before their first birthday. The number of infant deaths prior to their first birthday nationally is about 5.7 deaths per 1,000 births. While the infant mortality numbers differ from state to state, Ohio has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Lastly, the March of Dimes defines a miscarriage as a pregnancy loss prior to 20 weeks gestation. Unfortunately, the exact number of miscarriages is harder to know due to the fact that many women experience them before they know they are pregnant; however, it is thought to be 1 out of every 4 pregnancies (or 25 percent), that end in miscarriage.
With the pregnancy and infant loss numbers higher than commonly thought, it is likely that everyone knows someone who has experienced a loss of this nature. If you know someone who has experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, here are a few things you can do to offer comfort:
- Let them know you are available if they ever need to talk. Many people are unsure about who they can turn to to discuss their loss. Letting them know that you are here to listen can be a great comfort.
- Try to avoid making statements like, “It just wasn’t meant to be,” or referencing a greater plan being in place. For many, these statements can feel like their experience is being minimized.
- Encourage them to seek out therapy with a trained mental health provider, and/or support groups where they can process their loss and work toward healing. Postpartum Support International (PSI) has a national database of trained mental health therapists who can help, as well as support groups.
If you have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss here are some things you should know:
- You are not alone.
- You are not to blame.
- It is okay to grieve your loss (no matter how far along in your pregnancy you may have been). Finding some way to honor your loss can help in the grieving process; examples include planting a tree or a garden, or keeping a memory box. 4. Seek appropriate mental health care if you need support to process your loss.
While the statistics indicate that pregnancy and infant loss is more common than people assume, it continues to be a topic that society avoids. This leaves those parents who experience such a loss feeling isolated and silenced. Since October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month, it is a perfect time to honor parents who have experienced losses, children who may have been born sleeping, or the babies that live on in the hearts and minds of their parents and families.
Additional Resources & Sources
Ashley Bush is the owner and lead therapist at Bloom Women’s Counseling, Consulting, and Wellness, LLC. located in Maumee. Ashley is passionate about the mental health and wellness of women and female identifying individuals. She provides therapy to women experiencing a variety of situations, including postpartum experiences, pregnancy/infant loss, and issues related to motherhood and parenting. She holds a master’s degree in social work, is licensed independently by the state of Ohio, and has a certificate in perinatal mental health. For more information please visit Psychology Today and Bloom Women’s Counseling, Consulting, and Wellness, LLC and the Bloom Facebook page.