In France, an estimated 200,000 miscarriages occur each year. Although it is the most common reason why women visit emergency gynecological services, there is silence when it comes to discussing miscarriages, while medical staff sometimes lack the time and training to target women to psychological support. Jowharobserved a support group, run by the charity Agapa, for women who left and felt confused and isolated after their abrupt pregnancies.
Conventional wisdom says that women are discouraged from discussing their pregnancies with their companions and their employer before they reach three months, which marks the point when the risk of miscarriage decreases.
Marie-Hélène Lahaye, a legal expert and blogger on pregnancy and childbirth, argues that because their short pregnancies never existed in the public space, it is difficult for women to feel legitimate in grief when they stop.
She also believes that the silence about miscarriage has its roots in the sexist idea that “women should not disturb men with anything that damages their image as sexual objects. We are not talking about periods, vaginal discharge, menopause. We do not” talk about anything intimate that can create a dissatisfied image of ourselves. “
To keep quiet
Annie K. tells Jowharthat she “brushed what was happening under the rug” without realizing that she needed to mentally treat the two miscarriages she experienced in 2016. Four years later, when France was on lockdown due to Covid-19, she came close to a breakdown and sought psychological support from the French charity Agapa.
“After keeping it to ourselves,” says Maud C., “my husband and I stopped telling a group of friends that they could see something was wrong. We discovered that several also had miscarriages, but none of we had talked about it before. That’s how common it is. “
Insufficient way by the bed
After Margaux T. underwent surgery after an ectopic pregnancy, she woke up in the hospital’s recovery room next to a newborn child who had just had a child from the C-section. “It is a problem that the birth and the miscarriage are taken care of in the same hospital wards. It is very unpleasant for a woman who has just had a miscarriage to hear any food right next door.”
For Ingrid B., another member of the support group, the physical and emotional pain began when she was “brutally” informed by hospital staff that she had miscarried, which preceded an operation to remove the embryo. “Right then I did not feel anything. Just emptiness.” She believes that hospital staff should have been more sensitive to her trials or at least suggested that she should benefit from professional psychological support.
Professor Thierry Harvey, head of the maternity ward Diaconesses in Paris, tells Jowharthat he is well aware of the problem. “A woman who is just having a miscarriage must be addressed in a caring and humane way,” he says. “But at four in the morning, when the junior doctor is working like crazy, after treating a delivery with forceps, bleeding and two C-sections, it is not easy. We are short-staffed in delivery wards. And there is a problem in training.”
Professor Harvey applauds charities such as Agapa who are trying to fill the gap in medical school education by offering lessons to hospital staff on how to inform and help women who have miscarriages. He adds: “As the older generation in the medical professions, it is up to us to mentor younger doctors.”
Knowing how to mourn
In France, if a fetus dies weighing more than 500 g or after 22 weeks, parents can officially register a name and hold a funeral. Between 15 and 22 weeks, this is optional. The weeks are calculated based on the first day of the woman’s last period, rather than the fourteenth day of her cycle, which can also be used to determine the length of the pregnancy.
The women in the support group say that some couples want to mourn early miscarriages. “We needed them to exist in some way so that we could mourn,” said Maud J., who laid two plaques at the Sainte-Beaume Sanctuary in the south of France. After their miscarriage, Ingrid B. and Maud C. began wearing jewelry engraved with the first names they had chosen.
At the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, there is a memorial for those who want to lay flowers, photos or other important objects.
Not everyone wants to grieve this way. Above all, the women in the support group think that there is a crucial need to break the silence that accompanies miscarriage. Margaux T. has created a discussion forum and started a small company, Rebirth. Maud J. has written a book, Donne-moi des fils ou je meurs (“Give me children or I will die”) based on her own and other women’s miscarriages.
They hope that the opening of their experiences will not only help other women undergoing similar trials but also family and friends who, if they are better informed, can offer valuable support.