It’s said that one of the most challenging, albeit enriching experiences in a woman’s life is when she becomes a mother. Nature works in such a way that only a woman can bring a child into this world after carrying a foetus for nine months in the womb, during which time, a woman’s body undergoes a huge transformation. Once a baby is born, there are numerous responsibilities and expectations that surface, where a new mother is constantly bombarded with information and advice on the “right way” to handle motherhood. However, it’s odd that while everyone is ready with advice after a baby is born, no one talks about what happens in case a miscarriage occurs and how to handle the pain and suffering of dealing with the loss of an unborn child.
A miscarriage, also known as early pregnancy loss is the loss of a foetus before the 20th week of pregnancy or even half-way through a full-term pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur during the first trimester, but it’s possible that it may sometimes occur during the second trimester. However, miscarriages after the 20th week of pregnancy are called stillbirths, since the foetus is grown with an almost complete set of organs. While miscarriage is a naturally occurring phenomenon, unlike medical or surgical abortions, there is stigma attached to it. A difficult thing to comprehend, however, is why it is made out to be such an isolating event, given that it’s not an uncommon occurrence and is natural. Moreover, we find that as a society, no one talks about the pain of going through a miscarriage and often, women are blamed for it.
Our society often makes us believe that the news of a miscarriage should not be shared with others, and women should suffer silently. But the reality is that miscarriage requires support and understanding and maybe even counselling for some women on how to overcome their grief and loss. Wouldn’t it be lovely if hospitals and midwives provide grief counselling to mothers who miscarried? To be honest, opening up about the pain and trauma not only helps a woman course through this hard time, but also creates a sense of community and connectedness towards women who have suffered a similar loss. Of course, determining whether or not she is ready to share the news of her miscarriage is a woman’s decision only, but allowing her the space and medium to do so accounts for a step in the right direction. In the recent past, actors like Chrissy Teigen and Megan Markle have spoken about their sorrow during these times, thereby opening a floodgate for women across the world, who shared similar accounts and what it meant to them to finally talk about it freely.
More recently, New Zealand legalized miscarriage leave, and became the second country after India, which had initiated this benefit for women in 1961. In India, the miscarriage leave extends to six weeks of paid leave under the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 1961. According to this act, in case of such an event, a woman is guaranteed a leave of six weeks following the day of this eventuality, if she can show valid proof of the same. However, the question about the implementation of this law is another question in itself.
Human rights are not only the foundation of healthcare provisions, but also lay the groundwork for a healthy economy. Women must take charge of their own bodies and have the right to make decisions about the same. A change in attitude is required to ensure that pregnancy is a happy and fulfilling experience for a woman and when that does not happen, she is treated with equal respect, empathy and support.