Friday, 13 January 2017

Myths, Miscarriages & Misconceptions

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to. It’s not for them”. - Joubert Botha
It is a subject matter which is not readily discussed in public; however, for many couples and single women having a miscarriage is a reality. Women who have lost a child through a miscarriage often speak about the trauma they struggle with as well as the self-blaming which accompanies this painful and at times life changing event. There are many myths associated with having a miscarriage, one such is; a miscarriage is caused by a stressful event or lighting heavy object. It has become common place in many societies for people to offer help to pregnant women to carry objects for them, however; there is little evidence to suggest that a miscarriage is linked to a mother’s physical activity or emotional state. There is a tendency to believe that pregnant women are fragile and helpless beings, however, nothing can be further from the truth. It bears thought that we should not allow this perception to prevent us from offering assistance to pregnant mothers where ever possible. Another myth which is popular is that nothing can be done to lessen the pain of a miscarriage. We all know that knowledge is power and knowing why a miscarriage happens can assist immensely in facilitating many women to let go of the thought that they have are responsible for the loss. At times professional counselling is highly recommended to help women cope with the loss of a child through miscarriage. The focus oftentimes is solely on women regarding a miscarriage and we ignore and or discount the pain that men experience as a result of the loss of child due to miscarriage. Men generally grieve differently from women and tend to suppress their feelings about the loss of a baby. Usually the men may show their tougher side to either be supportive of their wives or partner. However, the suppression of one’s emotion is not the answer to this growing problem.  Miscarriage is a medical term used to describe a pregnancy which ends on its own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation. According to the American College Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a miscarriage is the most type of pregnancy loss. Studies reveal than between 10 to 25 per cent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage, which translate to one in every women stands a chance of losing their baby because of a miscarriage. Pregnancy is often an exciting time, on the other hand, in this time of joy there is always the possibility of a miscarriage. Studies show that most miscarriage occurs during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Possible Reasons for Having a Miscarriage
The reason for a miscarriage is varied and very often the cause cannot be identified. However, during the first trimester, the most common cause of a miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality which means something is not correct with the baby’s chromosomes. The age of the expectant mother is another factor. Women under the age of 35 have a 15 per cent chance of having a miscarriage, as against women 45 and older which have a 50 per cent chance of losing the pregnancy. Many couple struggle with the issue of infertility so once a pregnancy occurs it’s a time for celebration. Given the society in which we live, women who are unable to have children are often ridiculed and viewed as less than. Many of these women often experience bouts of depression as they face the sad reality that motherhood in its biological definition is not for every woman.  According to a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, feelings of depression and anxiety may last for almost three years following the birth of a healthy baby. The study reported that among who had one previous miscarriage or stillbirth, 13 per cent were still experiencing symptoms of depression almost three years later, and approximately 19 per cent of women who had two previous pregnancy losses were still depressed after 33 months. Grief and sadness are not gender specific, notwithstanding this as a society we need to show more compassion and give support where possible to those families who have been impacted by miscarriage. Childless is a serious and complex issue and not much support is given to those who find themselves in that category.  Men who have not fathered a child also face the discrimination associated with childlessness. They are often teased, jeered as well as encourage to be unfaithful to their spouse and partner since it’s often the belief that it is the woman who is at fault. Conversely, men can and do have low sperm count which can render them unable to impregnate a woman naturally. Medical breakthrough have made it possible for men and women with fertility issues to children, therefore, no man or woman should feel hopeless. However, these in vitro-fertilization (IVF) procedures can be quite costly and excludes a significant section of the populace. It can be argued that no one can truly know what it feels like to have a miscarriage or a stillbirth until and unless you have had that experience.  Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and Co-founder of Face book disclosed sometime ago that he and his wife Priscilla had three miscarriages before they finally had their daughter. Their experiences and willing to share such a personal matter with the public has served to peel away the threads of misconception usually associated with the tabooed subject of miscarriage. It will require more public discourse in order to empower more people to share with others about their private journey regarding this most unfortunate and traumatic experience. In the words of the unknown author, “I fell in love with you when you were forming in my womb, now I carry you in my heart instead of my arms”.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. waykam@yahoo.com @WayneCamo
and Kurt Hickling, is an educator and cultural studies advocate with an interest in the cultural dimensions affecting males. kurthickling@gmail.com @jamteach1976