Helping Your Husband Cope with Pregnancy Loss

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Expanding your family and welcoming new life into the world can be a magical and exciting time.  Women excitedly pick out maternity clothes, couples create baby registries, and men start putting together cribs and other pieces of baby apparatus.  In nine months if all goes well, the couple welcomes a beautiful, bouncing bundle of joy into their lives.  However, for some couples, the road to baby is much more challenging.  Pregnancy loss can be devastating for a couple, especially if they have been struggling for quite some time with infertility.  A couple may have waited years to become pregnant, or could have endured numerous fertility procedures. 

Pregnancy loss can occur either early on in the pregnancy or much later.  Regardless of when pregnancy loss does occur, most attention is usually focused on the woman.  Well wishers consistently check in to make sure that she is emotionally ok, while medical practitioners ensure that she is physically ok.  She is offered pamphlets and brochures notifying her of support groups in the area and is encouraged to seek counseling or psychiatric help when warranted. 

While this attention and support is positive for women who are struggling, often times, men seem to be completely forgotten during this process.  Nobody seems to check on them to assess their welfare or emotional stability.  Perhaps this is related to old stereotypes where men are assumed to be strong and unemotional in all situations.  Nevertheless, men are usually left and forgotten by the wayside, although their feelings and disappointments are very real.

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If you and your husband have experienced pregnancy loss, it is important to be vigilant of your husband’s feelings and disappointment. Grief is real. When receiving the news that he was going to be a father, he likely started envisioning how his life would change.  Maybe he fast forwarded to dreaming about teaching his son to play football, or walking his daughter down the aisle someday.  Maybe he thought about coaching little league or watching his little girl dance in her first recital.  He may have started to emotionally shift perspectives and priorities, or started to make financial and logistical plans to accommodate a new family member.  Pregnancy loss can erase these dreams and eradicate these plans in one painful swoop. 

It is important to allow your husband time to process and discuss his disappointment without him feeling like he is exacerbating your pain.  If it is understandably too difficult for you to discuss the subject with your husband, it is important to encourage him to talk to another trusted family member or friend.  If he does not feel comfortable confiding his feelings in someone that he knows, encourage him to seek professional help with a mental health counselor. 

Encourage your husband to take time for himself when he needs to and to find support where he can.  Although very few pregnancy support groups exist for fathers, perhaps he can find some men in a similar position through social media or through a physician’s office.  Allow your husband to take time for himself if he desires, such as taking a walk, going to the gym, or playing basketball with a friend. 

It is important to give your husband the time and space that he needs to heal, as the loss is just as real for him.  Depending on when the pregnancy loss occurred, your husband may have acquired some items in preparation for his child.  Allow your husband to retain or discard these items whenever he feels comfortable to do so.

Pregnancy loss is extremely difficult whether you are a man or a woman.  However, women are afforded many more opportunities for emotional support than men are.  Being there for your husband and getting through the loss together is paramount.  Pregnancy loss and infertility can be extremely stressful and puts considerable strain on relationships.  Ensuring that you take care of yourself and making sure that your husband takes care of himself is crucial, in addition to taking care of yourselves as a couple. 

Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.