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Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is surprisingly common, so much so that even if you haven’t experienced it yourself you are likely to know someone who has.
Earlier today Meghan Markle opened up about her own experiences, revealing she suffered from a miscarriage in the summer.
In a moving article for The New York Times, the Duchess of Sussex revealed she’d learnt just how common losing a pregnancy is, sharing that around 10 to 20 in every 100 women will miscarry.
Despite so many families having personal experiences of the subject, knowing how to support someone or what to say to people after they have suffered a miscarriage or pregnancy loss can be difficult.
But surveys have revealed that both men and women crave the support of their friends and family when going through a traumatic ordeal like this.
Research, by Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshive University and Montefiore Medical Center in New York, found that almost half of the 1,084 people polled said they felt less alone when a friend talked about their own miscarriage.
The problem is it can be difficult to find the right words to help support someone through their experiences, so many opt to stay silent.
A Miscarriage Association survey on attitudes to pregnancy loss found that while the majority of respondents believed talking to someone who had a miscarriage would help that person, 32% said they would not feel comfortable doing do, even for a close friend.
When asked the reason for not opening up the discussion with a friend, the most-cited reason was not knowing that to say.
But according the charity Tommy’s, which funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, there are some simple ways to help support a friend or loved one through their loss.
Acknowledge their loss
Not knowing what to say can put people off saying anything at all, but sometimes simply acknowledging you’re aware of what they are going through can be enough.
“You may worry that you don’t know what to say or think that it’s best not to say anything,” Tommy’s midwifery manager Kate Marsh says.
“However, the simple act of acknowledging someone’s loss can really help. Just let them know that you’re sorry for what has happened and that you are there for them.”
Watch: Meghan Markle opens up about her miscarriage
Ask them if they’re ok
In the article revealing her miscarriage experience Meghan Markle recalls the interview from the end of her tour in South Africa with her husband, Harry, in which ITV’s Tom Bradby asked if she was OK.
She said she felt her “off-the-cuff reply” gave permission for others to speak, though for her, it was the question itself that helped her the most.
“Sometimes, it can be very difficult to know if someone wants to talk about a painful event,” Marsh explains.
“If they don’t want to talk about it, they will let you know, but try not to let this fear stop you from asking.”
Pick your words carefully
Despite best intentions, Tommy’s say there are some things that are commonly said to someone after a miscarriage that aren’t particularly helpful.
“It’s natural to want to make someone feel better and try to be encouraging about the future and their chances of having a healthy baby,” Marsh explains.
“However, things like ‘everything happens for a reason’, ‘you can always try for another one’ or ‘at least you weren’t too far along’ can be really upsetting.”
Though you may be hoping to offer words of comfort, sometimes comments like this can appear dismissive, and leave those grieving of the opinion you may not be taking what’s happened seriously.
While it can sometimes be helpful to offer advice from your own experiences, often the best thing you can do for someone who has suffered a miscarriage or pregnancy loss is be there to listen to them.
“Sometimes people aren’t looking for advice about what they can do,” Tommy’s explains. “They just need someone to listen to how they feel.”
The charity suggests trying to give them space to say everything they want to say to someone who is really listening.
Offer practical support
In attempting to offer a friend or family member emotional support, it can be easy to overlook the physical impact of having a miscarriage.
“For example, they may have been to hospital for an operation,” Tommy’s explains. “They may be feeling overwhelmed by irregular hormones or exhausted after losing blood or the trauma of miscarrying.”
Tommy’s midwives suggest a way of helping out could be offering practical support, such as offering to do the shopping, run errands for them or cook a meal.
Help them seek professional support
Despite our best efforts in providing support, sometimes those who have been through a miscarriage will need more help than we can offer.
“If your loved one is struggling and you feel that they may need more support, you could try to help them find what they need,” Tommy’s suggests.
“For example, some people find it helpful to talk to other people who have been through a similar experience. Others may find it helpful to talk to a professional.”
Where to go for help
If you’ve suffered a miscarriage or want to find out more about helping someone who has, there are plenty of places in the UK you can get the support and help you need.
The stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands also offers support to anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.