Updated: Feb 9, 2022
Here are five stories -- ranging from personal essays to analyses of the impact of abortion restrictions -- to read about the (common) experience of pregnancy loss.
In a podcast episode and accompanying write-up, NPR’s Gabrielle Horton and Martina Abrahams Ilunga offer advice to those close to someone who has experienced pregnancy loss or has experienced this themselves. Among their guidelines are the necessity of acknowledging loss, the need to make space for grief, the importance of simply being present for loved ones going through pregnancy loss, and the value of exploring all available care options.
For Longreads, Anna Lea Hand provides a deeply personal account of pregnancy loss, recounting her experience with brutal honesty and surprising humor. Hand recalls her frustrating encounter with a dismissive and alienating healthcare system, as well as her isolation as she navigated her miscarriage while her partner was away with work. Hand’s frankness while recalling her loss in excruciating detail is a welcome contribution to a culture that is too often silent when it comes to the miscarriage experience. By breaking this silence, Hand elevates the lived experience of millions of women, challenging an ingrained societal stigma that considers pregnancy loss too taboo to discuss openly.
Katie Reilly, in The Washington Post, couples the personal with the journalistic as she discusses the societal tendency to neglect the impact of miscarriages on men. She mentions her own miscarriage experience and her tendency to forget that her husband was suffering emotionally in the broader context of a culture that “[dismisses] men’s vulnerable feelings of loss and sadness.” Reilly cites some of the too-few studies that have been done on the effect of pregnancy loss on men, finding that men’s emotional responses can be so severe as to constitute post-traumatic stress disorder and that men grieve less openly than their female partners. More research and pieces like Reilly’s are a positive initial step in creating a social environment that frees men to grieve openly and fully.
Reproductive rights lawyer Amanda Allen and reproductive rights advocate Cari Sietstra, in a guest essay for The New York Times, argue that abortion restrictions not only limit the options of women experiencing unwanted pregnancies but constrict the healthcare choices available to women experiencing miscarriages. Both authors reflect on how the trauma of their own miscarriages was compounded by the fact that their optimal method of treatment was not available due to politically-motivated restrictions on the drug mifepristone in the United States. Allen and Siestra emphasize that the restrictions like this on women’s healthcare disproportionately impact communities of color, particularly Black communities, who already face sub-standard pregnancy-related healthcare. When it comes to mifepristone in particular, the FDA has initiated a review of how the drug is regulated in the United States, which Allen and Siestra praise as a positive first step.
Relatedly, The New York Times’ Jessica Grose discusses her experience with a nonviable pregnancy, mentioning that the healthcare options with which she was presented may not be open to patients in a post-Roe world. Grose chose a D. and C. to “get this awful experience over with as soon as possible,” an option that likely would not have been available to her in a world where physicians have to be concerned about threats of prosecution. She speaks with a Maltese gynecologist about the healthcare landscape in countries where abortions are illegal, with the doctor stating that they must take a “wait and see” approach rather than offering women the full array of medical options open to them. Grose details how this approach can be detrimental to women’s health, offering a bleak warning of the multifold consequences that result from burdensome abortion restrictions.
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