OB-GYN offers tips on supporting those grieving pregnancy loss
Pregnancy loss is a painful ordeal that poses unique dilemmas for all involved: spouses, family, friends, even employers.
Approximately 20 percent of pregnancies end in loss, typically before the 12th week. Causes include abnormal chromosomes that form at conception and maternal problems such as a dysfunctional immune system, inherited blood-clotting abnormalities, and inadequate progesterone production.
Thankfully, most causes of recurrent pregnancy loss can be treated to reduce the probability of additional losses. Sadly, finding a physician who appreciates this and is willing to get involved can be very challenging.
Finding support for the emotional and spiritual turmoil that pregnancy loss causes can seem insurmountable. The secular world, often including the woman’s physician, tells her, “You’re young, you’ll be pregnant again, don’t worry, this is just a normal part of life,” or “at least you have other children.”
Planned Parenthood and their allies portray that a woman loses only a clump of cells, so why be upset? Yet, a woman’s heart knows better. Everything inside of her screams that she lost a child. Anyone who doesn’t think a nine-week fetus is a child should sit with a woman and explain that her nine-week fetus is no longer alive. She is suffering the pain of losing a child.
How can we comfort those who suffer pregnancy loss? First, call it what it is: the loss of a child. This helps the woman and her husband understand the myriad feelings they are experiencing.
Second, acknowledge and affirm their pain — and that it will not go away quickly — by saying, “I know you have to be hurting over the loss of your baby; I’m sorry and I wish I knew more to say.”
Third, don’t overlook husbands. Pregnancy loss can create a significant emotional conflict for men, who are designed to protect and to solve problems. As one husband remarked, “I’m designed to neutralize a threat; but this threat is too powerful. I’m failing.”
Couples may be angry at God because they feel that He is betraying or neglecting them. Later guilt over those feelings often leads to confusion, frustration, and despair. Remind couples that they are not alone, that God has not and will not forsake them, that one day the pain will make sense, but that day is later. At the same time, be cautious and avoid conveying — even unintentionally — that feeling grief is inappropriate if they have faith. Grieving isn’t a sign of faith’s absence, but a natural part of loss.
Someone you know has or will experience pregnancy loss. As a Catholic leader, rise to the occasion and comfort him or her in a way that only a follower of Christ can — with unyielding compassion, honesty, and love.
CHRISTOPHER STROUD, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and a certified medical consultant in Creighton Model Fertility Care System/NaProTechology in Fort Wayne, IN, and a co-host of “Doctor Doctor,” a radio show dealing with all things medical from a Catholic perspective heard nationally on EWTN Radio.