We Removed The Word "Miscarriage" From Our Site & Here's Why
Inspired by a conversation following our initiative to remove "infertility" from our website, mindbodygreen has set out to be more intentional with the word "miscarriage" as well. Going forward, we'll use language that better empathizes with the challenge of losing a pregnancy and represents the wider spectrum of experiences. To get a better understanding of why we're prioritizing this initiative, fertility experts along with our co-founder and co-CEO Colleen Wachob share some insight.
A word from our co-founder & co-CEO Colleen Wachob.
Earlier in the year, I wrote an introduction for a post on why we were removing the word "infertile" from our library of content on mindbodygreen. A colleague kindly pointed out that the word "miscarriage" used in the post was not very empowering or empathetic for women who have lost pregnancies. As someone who has personally lost pregnancies, I couldn't agree more.
We are always growing on our wellness journey, and the language that we use will continue to evolve. The word "miscarriage" fails us because it implies that we, and our bodies, did something wrong and carried our children incorrectly. We have become so accustomed to the use of the word "miscarriage" that it's hard to realize the ways it fuels guilt.
While there are factors that can increase the risk of miscarriage, the reality is that most miscarriages occur because of chromosomal abnormalities. Even though rationally we know that we didn't cause the loss, it's challenging for the rational brain to beat out the emotional mind in these times of deep suffering.
Alternatively, the term "pregnancy loss" captures a spectrum of outcomes. To that end, we've combed through our library of content to remove the word "miscarriage" and use "pregnancy loss" to better support families who are working through the spiritual, physical, and emotional trauma of loss at any point in their fertility journey.
Why the word "miscarriage" can be misleading and harmful.
Traditionally, the word "miscarriage" is used to describe pregnancy loss that occurs before 20 weeks of gestation (the medical term for this is "spontaneous abortion"). According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, approximately 10% of known pregnancies result in this type of early pregnancy loss (the total number may be higher, as they can occur before someone even realizes the pregnancy).
"Right now, both doctors and society formally recognize what has traditionally been referred to as miscarriage as a form of reproductive and pregnancy loss," says scientist and fertility specialist Cleopatra Kamperveen, Ph.D. "In fact, in a groundbreaking decision earlier this year, the New Zealand parliament unanimously approved legislation to formally recognize miscarriage grief, providing three days of paid bereavement leave for any parent experiencing a pregnancy loss."
While acknowledging the difficulty of this experience is a step in the right direction, it doesn't change the fact that the term "miscarriage" itself is very loaded. As mentioned, it implies a mistake or error in the pregnancy, which only augments existing pain.
That's why mindbodygreen is choosing to use the term "pregnancy loss" to better represent this experience. "Pregnancy loss acknowledges that it's a loss and needs to be recognized as such," says Sheeva Talebian, M.D., a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. "Loss results in grief, which also must be addressed." What's more, this term is more inclusive of the wide spectrum of scenarios that individuals face.
Why "pregnancy loss" captures the bigger picture.
"There are many forms of reproductive and pregnancy loss—both those that are formally recognized and those that are not formally recognized," says Kamperveen. "There are countless other forms that go unacknowledged, both within the medical community and in everyday life."
According to Kamperveen, these include (but are not limited to) the following types of reproductive and pregnancy loss, which affect people across age and gender lines:
- Fertility-related diagnoses (PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, cysts, etc.)
- Fertility challenges
- The feeling of "running out of time to have children"
- Chemical pregnancy
- Fertility intervention that doesn't work as hoped (such as unsuccessful IUI or IVF)
- Feeling like there is no choice but to terminate a pregnancy or give a child up for adoption (due to health, financial, relationship, and/or other circumstance)
- Not getting to have a biological child/use one's own egg or sperm
- Complications during the primemester, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum (your own or that of someone close to you)
- Adoption uncertainty, waiting, and disappointments
While these forms of pregnancy loss may not be officially recognized, they are still important to know and acknowledge, as they can be deeply painful.
"The physiological circumstances of a loss can look very different depending on the type and timing of the loss," says Kamperveen. "And yet, the socioemotional experience of reproductive or pregnancy loss is always—however and whenever it occurs—very simply put, a loss."
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