Stillbirths and Miscarriages: Taboo Subjects?

Why is it taboo to discuss miscarriages and stillbirths publically?

I had a recent discussion with friends regarding their thoughts on if miscarriages and stillbirths should be discussed publically.

Friends who announced their pregnancy early felt they had to defend their decision for an early announcement.  People kept asking them what they would do if they had a miscarriage.  Those friends would reply they chose to announce their pregnancy early so they would have a large circle of support if they were to have a miscarriage.

Does society wants us to look the other way if something “sad” happens?   Is it because we want to protect our family and friends from potentially “bad” news?  Is it because we don’t know how to react when hearing the news that a close one had a miscarriage or a stillbirth?  Is it because it makes us feel helpless?

This discussion bought up the role of social media in our daily life.  Sometimes I see Facebook status updates that a friend is pregnant, having contractions, or just had a boy/girl.  Every once in a while I see updates that a friend just had a miscarriage.

I have noticed people do not always know how to response when someone posts about  having a miscarriage.  Some become upset that this was posted and think it should be a 100% private matter.

I have also noticed a couple of friends posting pictures of their stillborn baby.  This seems to upset some people who feel something like this should be private and not posted.  Is it because people don’t want to deal with the sadder aspect of pregnancy and birth process?  Is it because they want to be protected in a sense and only hear the “good” things?   Is it because it scares people that this could happen to them?  People complain it’s inappropriate and inconsiderate for stillbirth pictures to be posted.

On the other hand, there are people who feel this is a great thing to do in the grieving process.  Just because they had a miscarriage or a stillbirth doesn’t mean they were never pregnant.  They still want to share their child with the world.  They don’t want to hide the baby-parent bond, they don’t want to hide their love, and they don’t want anyone to forget their baby.

This again, comes back to the fact that discussions of miscarriages and stillbirths is considered taboo in our society.  Should something that is common and a natural part of human life be hidden?  Or should it become more accepted that this is part of life and it’s ok to share it with others?

Personally, I believe people should be able to do what is most appropriate for them without feeling like they have to defend themselves.  Some people prefer to be more private while others prefer to be more public.  My personal belief is that people usually know what is the best for them in situations like this but there needs to be more support and acceptance from society for people to be able to make that decision.

What can we do as, genetic counselors, to help get rid of that taboo?

10 Comments

Filed under Kelly Rogel

10 responses to “Stillbirths and Miscarriages: Taboo Subjects?

  1. I am not a genetic counselor, I am simply a mother who lost a son to stillbirth at full term (Ben was due in 3 days when he died of a knot in his umbilical cord).

    After Ben died, my husband & I became social lepers. Many of our friends had babies, were pregnant, or became pregnant in the months after our loss. They were afraid to talk to us, afraid to see us (might it happen to them too?). The silence surrounding us was deafening and we felt, like so many other stillbirth parents will also tell you, like we had joined a secret club.

    I wish stillbirth were more easily talked about. 26,000 women will deliver a stillborn child in America each year. Four million around the world will have a stillbirth each year. These numbers are astounding, but because society is uncomfortable with infant death, few people know how high these rates are. And it feels like no one cares.

    Those numbers could be cut down. As many as 50% of infants stillborn will have died from no discernible cause. The Back to Sleep campaign for SIDS cut back the number of SIDS deaths by 50%, and we could do the same for stillbirth, if only we could raise awareness.

    It troubles me that people think my son was not “real,” do not understand that I had to go through labor, contractions, delivery, that my body did everything the body of a mother with a new, healthy infant will do. I cannot share his photos for so many don’t want to see them (even my own parents). I thank you for bringing this topic up on your blog.

  2. Kelly Rogel

    Virginia: Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope you continue to share your story, it will help other women realize they’re not alone.

  3. Hi Kelly,

    Thank you for posting this very important message. I had a miscarriage last year. It was devastating and I felt like no one understood. For a long time, no one called me or asked about how I was doing. Turns out, they were afraid of “upsetting” me – as if I wasn’t already upset! Then there were the people who said things like “it was for the best”. Oh really? How was losing my baby for the best?! I agree that this subject is, for whatever reason, still very taboo in our society. As a society, I don’t think we speak much about any kind of death, let alone the loss of a baby. But miscarriages and stillbirths are a part of life, as sad as they may be.

    After my miscarriage I decided to do something positive with my experience. I started Angel Bracelets (http://angelbracelets.org) and we donate $2 from every memorial bracelet we sell to pregnancy and infant loss organizations. We also have a page where we post the stories of lost babies (Angel Stories), and we have links to our charity partners and other resources.

    I’d also like to point out another new site called Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope (http://facesofloss.com). They’re a charitable organization that posts the stories and photos of women who’ve experienced the loss of a baby. I think their site is a great resource.

  4. Kelly Rogel

    Hello Melissa,

    I really enjoyed looking at Angel Bracelets. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing these wonderful websites with me. I’m glad to see there are resources and support out there like this.

    Kelly

  5. Lisa

    I think there are many sensitive topics that people don’t want to talk about – politics, religion, feelings, etc. Death is a major one, especially when it is untimely, as with a baby. (Though one could argue that there is never a good time for death). As a genetic counselor and even outside of that role, I am very involved in perinatal loss support and advocacy. I appreciate every story I hear about loss. I am humbled by a mother’s ability to recount her experience and share her precious memories of her child. We have so much to learn from these women, namely strength and bravery.

    In a recent search, I came across the “I am the face” website. http://www.iamtheface.org/ This campaign hopes to bring more attention to the thousands of women who lose a baby every day.

    National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day is October 15th and I hope we all see some attention devoted to this issue!

  6. I have given birth to my 4th stillborn son on October 25, 2012. Just like my other pregnancies that resulted in my sons being born still, the doctors do not have any answers on why this keeps happening to me. Two of my sons were born still at 21 weeks and my two youngest sons were born at 16 weeks. Not a day goes by that I do not cry over them. What hurts the most is when people tell me to its time to move on or that G-d had a plan for them. First off, G-d doesn’t take innocents, that’s in any religion, Satan took my sons from me because that is what he does, but with them being gone, they are under Yahweh’s care and with him safe and away from the chaos.

    • Kelly Rogel

      Samantha,

      I am sorry for your losses. Have you had an opportunity to speak with a genetic counselor who can support you?

      • Samantha Pope

        No need for a genetic counsel all testing came back negative or normal.

      • Kelly Rogel

        It’s frustrating when you don’t have any answers. Genetic counselors not only help coordinate tests but they also provide support. A genetic counselor can also help you find support groups in your area.

  7. Francene Rhyne

    A miscarriage is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman especially if it is a subsequent one and you had duly and urgently needed to have a baby since menopause might be knocking at the door. It is not only those kind of women who are hurt but any woman who wishes to be a mother would also feel hurt for having a miscarriage. In addition to this emotional pain women feel, it also causes a lot of physical pain from the cramps to the sight of a lot of blood. Now, what does one have to look out to make sure that it is showing its signs and not anything else like the first trimester bleeding?;

    Our web site
    <i="http://www.healthmedicinecentral.com/root-canal-recovery/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s