Trigger Warning: Discussions of Miscarriage
It’s likely that someone you know has experienced a miscarriage.
Up to one quarter of pregnancies end in miscarriage. They are not uncommon.
It’s also likely that you won’t know when it’s happened as 80% of miscarriages occur within the first 12 weeks, which is why many mothers keep their pregnancies private during this time.
It is so important to have practices in place to support mothers who have endured a miscarriage, both publicly and privately.
Mothers shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. Just because you might not know what someone is going through doesn’t mean that as a people leader you can’t support them.
Make it a practice to show empathy to all team members and take into account the spectrum of stages in an employee’s life.
If the mother did share their pregnancy news prior to 12 weeks and then subsequently loses the baby, they will be simultaneously grieving their loss, experiencing physical pain, enduring medical appointments and very likely dread sharing the news.
Additionally, if the mother has lost their baby after 20 weeks, they will need to endure the heartbreaking experience of giving birth, referred to as stillbirth.
Understanding the Impact of Having a Miscarriage
There can be an acute impact on a mother’s physical and mental health as a result of a miscarriage.
One in six mothers who have a miscarriage suffer from long-term post-traumatic stress. Pregnancy loss is also associated with physical pain, hormonal swings, anxiety, depression, and sleeping disorders.
This can impair day-to-day functioning and lead to social isolation.
3 Ways to Navigate this Difficult Situation as a People Leader:
1. Lead with empathy
It is not your job to find a solution, find meaning behind what happened, or make the pain go away. Focus on acknowledging the loss and providing opportunities for them to share if they choose to.
2. Offer the gift of time
Offer employees more time to deal with their grief (ideally paid) through longer bereavement leave, reduced hours and flexible schedules. It’s important to know what your company’s policies are around pregnancy loss. Is there flexibility around it? Is grief counselling available?
3. Ask whether and what to tell others at work
If they are comfortable, you may be able to save them from having to share the news repeatedly with others by circulating the news among their immediate team. Assume it is confidential unless they give you permission to share.
There will be wide differences in how mothers are impacted by miscarriage physically and emotionally.
The best advice you will receive will be from the mother themselves.
Establish trust early on by approaching all conversations with openness and compassion. Remind them that you are there to support them, that you are on their team.
Remember that everyone navigates loss in their own way.
Maturn offers a Management Training Workshop, which supports people leaders and organizations to navigate the maternity leave journey and create clear and positive conditions for the transition to and from leave.