Miscarriage: A Question and Answer with Jefferson Psychologist Andrea Braverman

You may have recently heard that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan are expecting their first child. Naturally the news was posted to Facebook, along with some more personal information: the couple had been trying to conceive for some time, and had suffered three miscarriages along the way.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), approximately 15-20 percent of women who already know they are pregnant will experience a miscarriage. Chemical pregnancies may account for 50-75 percent of all miscarriages (this occurs when a pregnancy is lost shortly after implantation, before a woman even realizes she is pregnant).

Public Affairs Specialist and expectant mom Edyta Zielinska spoke to Dr. Andrea Braverman, an embedded psychologist in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Jefferson about miscarriage and the emotional effects it can have on women and their partners. Dr. Braverman’s support group, Grief Support After Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Infant Death meets the first Tuesday of each month.

Edyta Zielinska: Many of the people who commented on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post also experienced miscarriage and said how lonely and isolating the experience was. Why do you think that is? Why is this loss often kept secret?

Dr. Braverman: Loss is kept secret a lot because of fear of confronting people who are at either extreme – overly nosey and asking too many questions or insensitive. For some it is felt to be shameful and that they either did something wrong, or feel like they failed where everyone else has been able to be successful.

EZ: What are some of the common themes that come up in your support group for those who have lost babies? What do families and moms in your group do to work through their grief?

Dr. Braverman: My group is for both partners. The themes have a lot to do with managing grief as well as talking about what “normal” is for grief. For many it’s sharing a story that needs no explanation because others in the group understand. No justification, embarrassment or disappointment in an insensitive remark. It’s a club to which no one wants to belong but there is power and strength in the belonging. For some the group allows them full recognition for the son or daughter they lost. Others outside the group, although well-meaning, often tire or feel helpless with responding to the grief; they expect the mom or dad to “get over” the loss quickly. Often friends or family or co-workers just don’t know what to do or say and try to ignore the loss because they feel inadequate or unskilled about the loss. As a society we don’t do well with grief in general and loss of a pregnancy or a stillbirth ratchets up the feelings.

EZ: What should the public know about miscarriage that we haven’t discussed so far?

Dr. Braverman: The public needs to know that miscarriage is common and there is a broad spectrum of responses. For some they do want to move on quickly and for others they need to grieve this like any other loss. It is important to ask the individual how s/he is doing and what is helpful to them – to talk or not – and then meet those needs. Understand that grief takes time and can’t be hurried. For the woman, her body has to recover. For both partners there may be a sense of uncertainty and fear about what the future may hold for them to have another pregnancy. It’s most important that others do not TELL the mom and/or dad what and how they should feel. Or lecture about how others who have had losses have felt. If nothing else, people should give their condolences “I am so sorry you had your loss” and then move on.

For more information on the support group call 215-955-5000 and ask for Andrea Braverman.

*This is the third post in a series by Edyta Zielinska.

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