If men had miscarriages, it wouldn’t be a quiet, behind-closed-doors experience.
There are approximately 6 million pregnancies in the U.S. each year, and more than a million of those end in loss. A million. Every year.
Despite this unfortunate prevalence, there is no support infrastructure in place for people going through pregnancy loss. I realized this when I went through it myself.
I had four pregnancy losses and, after each one, I felt lost, left to my own devices to figure out what was happening to me physically and emotionally. Technically, my obstetrician was there for my pregnancy; when my pregnancy ended, was he still my doctor? It wasn’t clear. Certainly nobody from his office reached out to me. When I called with questions—Am I supposed to be bleeding this much?—I felt like a nuisance. Nobody gave me the name of a therapist to call. Nobody even brought up the fact that I might need therapy (I did).
When I found a therapist on my own, one of the issues I discussed with her was this lack of support. “It wouldn’t be this way if men had miscarriages,” I told her. This was right around the time I first saw the “If men breastfed” video on YouTube, so I was thinking a lot about how women are often expected to suffer in silence while the patriarchal society they live in prioritizes men.
Things would be different if men had miscarriages because men would not be silent about them in the way women have been. Without the weight of shame and stigma, men would speak up and demand adjustments to societal structures to accommodate their losses.
That said, here’s what would happen if men had miscarriages:
1. They wouldn’t be called miscarriages.
Mistake. Mismanage. Misconstrue. All of these terms insinuate a failure of some kind. Emily Bazelon wrote in an essay, “Mis-carry: The word itself creeps with guilty error, as if you’ve carelessly dropped something you were meant to hold.”
If men had miscarriages, there would be no insinuation of failure, no implication of “guilty error.” We would just call it what it is: the loss of a baby.
2. There would be paid leave.
I’ve written before about the need for paid leave policies that cover pregnancy loss. If men had miscarriages, these policies would be standard. There would be government policies (federal and state), as well as company policies. The policies would be similar to family leave policies, allowing people to take time to heal from the physical and emotional trauma that accompanies the death of a baby.
In that vein, I applaud New Zealand’s revolutionary, unanimously-approved legislation granting paid leave to couples who suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth. Hopefully U.S. lawmakers are paying attention.
3. There would be a support infrastructure in place.
Studies show 90 percent of women desired specific follow-up care from their physician after a pregnancy loss, and only 30 percent received such attention. Health care providers are not blind to the lack of support either—only 11 percent feel the level of psychological care is adequate.
If men had miscarriages, there would be adequate support care. In the New York Times opinion piece, “You Know Someone Who’s Had a Miscarriage,” by Lauren Kelley and Alexandra March, Carol D. says:
“If it were men who went through this horrible emotional trauma, would insurance not cover them going to the hospital—perhaps to a special ward?—where their hands would be held, their discomfort alleviated, their grief recognized and listened to?”
There would be medical specialists dedicated to supporting people physically and emotionally after a loss. There would be miscarriage doulas. There would be miscarriage therapists. There would be recovery centers. There would be 24-hour hotlines staffed with nurses to answer questions about how much bleeding is normal.
4. There would be no financial cost.
My losses cost my husband and I an estimated $10,000—and that’s with insurance. I had an emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, medical management for a second ectopic pregnancy, a D&E for a second-trimester loss, and loads of doctor’s appointments, blood draws, procedures and exams.
The medical cost site Healthcare Bluebook estimates that, before insurance, a D&C (dilation and curettage, which surgically clears the uterine lining after a first trimester miscarriage) can range anywhere from $2,400 to upwards of $7,500. Even if you happen to have $7,500 lying around, you don’t want to spend it on losing a baby.
If men had miscarriages, the costs associated with them would be covered in the same way that preventive care is covered by most insurance plans. And those covered costs would include medical procedures as well as therapy.
5. There would be more funding for scientific research.
If hundreds of thousands of men were losing babies on a yearly basis, there would be extensive research underway to investigate not just the causes of loss (we know most losses are due to chromosomal abnormalities that are out of anyone’s control), but the prevalence in different groups (age, class, race, and so on), the psychosocial impacts of loss, the emotional and physical recovery after loss, and ways to optimize fertility.
6. Pregnancy loss would be considered a normal part of life.
If men had miscarriages, it wouldn’t be a quiet, behind-closed-doors experience. Every newscast would include something about pregnancy loss. Every TV series would have an episode (or several) about pregnancy loss. It would be as commonly discussed as the weather. There would be no shame attached to it; it would just be something that happens, something that has nothing to do with the man’s value as a person.
Of course, in asking ourselves how things would be different if men had miscarriages, we are laying the groundwork for how things should be for women now.
The more we, as women, speak up about our experiences of loss, the less fuel there is for the shame-stigma fire. When that fire dies out, when we normalize pregnancy loss (the physical and emotional process of it), change is possible.
It is my hope that women see pregnancy loss not as a personal failure, but as an unfortunate occurrence. It is my hope that society validates the grief that accompanies this occurrence by instituting policies that support women and their partners as they heal. It is my hope that women’s health, in general, garners the attention it so desperately deserves.