It is important to shed light on the impact of pregnancy loss on fathers and allow grieving fathers' voices to be heard. When a mother loses a baby, the assumption is often that the father must be strong and supportive. But we don't often refer to the extreme pressure that baby loss can have on men's mental health. Gender roles and the concept of masculinity often prevent men from expressing themselves or seeking the support they need.
How often do couples lose their babies?
The most frequent reason for losing a baby is miscarriage. A YouGov survey showed that 50 per cent of the respondents said that they had been either personally affected by, or knew someone that had gone through pregnancy loss. Overall, the estimated miscarriage rate in women who knew they were pregnant is around 10 to 15 per cent. However, in many parts of the world, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding pregnancy loss, and often, cases are not documented.
Around two million babies are stillborn every single year, but as many countries don't have a systematic way to record these deaths, the number could be even higher. There are also differences in the way we define pregnancy loss around the world. However, a miscarriage is considered to have occurred when a baby dies before 28 weeks of pregnancy.
How does it impact men?
For men, losing a child can have extremely traumatic emotional and psychological impacts. Of course, it is the mother who experiences the physical trauma, but we must not underestimate the impact that it has on the father. Bearing witness to the physical pain of a loved one can also result in PTSD.
Many men watch their loved ones go through pregnancy loss with a sense of total powerlessness, for many, this can lead to a serious mental health issue. After the loss, the feelings of helplessness often persist. Men are more likely to internalise their grief or attempt to seek distraction rather than talking about their loss. Often, both men and women suffer in silence when it comes to baby loss.
We need to continue to have tough conversations, whether it's raising awareness within our communities or talking to people close to us. We need to create a space in which grieving fathers, as well as mothers, feel able to express their emotions.
It is essential to acknowledge that it is acceptable for men to grieve and to process their pain. We also need to break down the taboo of men having to suffer in silence, while acting like they have it all together. Allowing men space to express their emotions is the first step.
How can you support Men?
· The subject is highly sensitive, so be gentle in your approach and let them guide the discussion.
· Give them some space to let you know how they feel and what they need from you. There is nothing you can solve by attempting to give advice or explanations.
· Instead, keep it simple, listen purposefully, and express the fact that you are sorry and are here for them.
· It is important that we do not hesitate to ask how they are coping. If they don't want to talk about it, they will tell you, but going around the subject is more likely to contribute to their sense of isolation.
Let's continue to spread love and offer support. Continue the conversation and do what you can to raise awareness.