Miscarriage and all of its accompanying feelings can have serious mental health consequences, says Tom Bourne, professor of gynecology at Imperial College London. In a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology this April, Bourne and his team found that one month after their loss, 29% of women experience post-traumatic stress, 24% anxiety, and 11% moderate or severe depression after early pregnancy loss like miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
“If we consider the ‘12 week rule,’ whereby women and their partners in general do not inform people that they are pregnant until they are around 12 weeks has meant that many women suffer a loss without their friends or family knowing anything about it,” said Bourne. As a result, friends and family might not recognize the symptoms of PTSD or other mental health issues after a pregnancy loss. “Current care following an early pregnancy loss clearly depends on where you are in the world. However in general most women following a pregnancy loss have no formal psychological support.”
In fact, the 12 week rule itself can be alienating and is mired in stigma. Because miscarriage is more likely to happen in the first trimester, many avoid sharing the news that they are pregnant “in case anything happens.” But this itself implies that miscarriage is shameful and meant to be kept secret. While it can help people who do not want to have to talk about miscarriage avoid telling a larger circle of people, it can also make those who do experience miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy feel more alone.
The lack of support many experience is not helped, Bourne says, by the language used to describe pregnancy loss. “‘[Phrases like] failed pregnancy,’ ‘incompetent cervix,’ ‘missed abortion,’ ‘retained products of conception,’ and ‘blighted ovum’ often make women feel as if they have failed.”
Although those who miscarry in secrecy or early in pregnancy may feel isolated, those who experience stillbirths later in their pregnancy—like Teigen—might be forced to share their news with friends and family.
After she passed that 12 week “safe” mark, author Laura Weymouth shared news of her pregnancy on Facebook. “My husband and I had gotten up in front of our church and made an announcement,” she said. So when she miscarried shortly after, she actually had to stand up in front of her church again to share the sad news.
It was “the quickest way I could think of to disseminate the information,” Weymouth said, she didn’t want to have to share the news over and over. “I did end up then being grateful that that had happened because I had numerous women from the church come to me in the months afterwards to say, ‘This happened to me too. Can we talk about it?’”
Since then, Weymouth has made a point of sharing her miscarriage story on Twitter every few years. “Almost every time I do I get DMs from people who want to talk about the fact that they’ve had miscarriages, and they don’t have anybody in their lives where they know definitively this has happened to them, and they can speak about it,” she said.
After Teigen shared her news Wednesday night, Weymouth wrote a 16-tweet thread detailing her own miscarriage experience. “I try to be pretty transparent about it so other people who’ve miscarried know they can approach me,” wrote Weymouth. She thinks it’s powerful that Teigen is doing the same.
“I just think it’s incredibly brave and generous that she’s sharing that with people in the first place when she has such a huge platform,” Weymouth said. “People don’t understand the degree to which this process that so many women go through, and it’s so common, is still shrouded in secrecy.”