How can I support my wife following miscarriage?

Question

Hello,
My wife has had an IUD for over 10 years. She recently informed me that she had a miscarriage. This is a very difficult time for her and she has many emotions including guilt. I also feel very bad about this. The questions are next steps. I am not sure how to help her and what advice to give. She has thoughts of removing the IUD citing that is the cause. I want to help anyway I can and make the necessary adjustments. Please advise.

Answer

Last Updated: July 7, 2013
I am very sorry for your family’s loss. Miscarriages are very difficult, especially for the mother of the miscarried child. There is a profound sense of loss which goes beyond the mere intellectual recognition of the fact that there was a pregnancy and now there is not. A woman’s body, when pregnant (even very early on), becomes physiologically focused in an amazing and profound way on the new life inside her womb. This affects every aspect of her being–not only intellectually, but emotionally, spiritually, psychologically… It is a “shock” to the system when that focus is suddenly not there–lost. A woman can feel adrift and empty.

In your wife’s case, there is the added guilt that she may have done something to cause this loss. The IUD works in many ways, including incapacitation of the sperm and possibly alterations in the cervical mucus. It also works by making the uterine lining inhospitable for implantation and development of a new child. There is no way around this fact. This issue will need to be dealt with as time goes on, but not necessarily right away.

At this time, she needs you to be there for her, sometimes not saying anything. There is no satisfactory explanation for what happened, and even if there were, it would not change the way that she feels. An explanation can’t alter the physiology of the body, and therefore can’t adequately address the sadness she feels. You should be there to listen to her. Hold her in your arms. Assure her that you are going through this with her and that you will both get through it together. Don’t be afraid to share your sadness (not in a despairing way) about the loss–this validates her sadness–she’s not “crazy” for feeling this way; it is normal and expected… and time will help to heal it. You need to be patient with her.

She needs to mourn. And you do too.

I would recommend that you counsel her to have the IUD removed. It’s the right thing to do (morally), and will be therapeutic for her. She will be able to do something concrete to address what happened. “The miscarriage wasn’t in vain–it was the occasion of the removal of the IUD, which is a good.” All contraceptives place a barrier between a husband and a wife–they make sexual intimacy deceptive–the marital act cries out: “I am all yours!”, but the contraceptive makes that into a lie (“All… except…”) The IUD was not good for your marriage, and this miscarriage allowed you and your wife to address this issue–and that’s a good thing…

Finally, as time passes, she will need to gain forgiveness for her role in what happened. This can be in different ways depending on her spiritual convictions. Catholics go to confession and obtain forgiveness and healing from this Sacrament. Persons of other religious conviction must seek out forgiveness in a way consistent with their beliefs–but your wife must be able to off-load that guilt. You can help her with this as time goes on.

Dr. Gisla

Answered By:

John Gisla, MD
Dr. John Gisla, Board Certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians, pracitces in the Sacramento Region.

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