Male grief overlooked after miscarriage, study finds

A Melbourne Sexual Health Centre study revealing how men feel after experiencing a miscarriage has attracted significant media attention.

The qualitative study, published recently in PLOS ONE, found that although most men described experiencing considerable grief following a miscarriage – with many reporting feeling devastated, shocked and powerless – they felt there was little acknowledgment of their loss from healthcare providers and social networks, and inadequate support.

“Everything was given to J, I was just the body in the room,” said one man.

“There was just no-one there to . . . acknowledge that it happened to me as well . . . one day I saw myself as a dad, the other day I was not a dad anymore,” said another.

Most men felt it was their role to be the ‘supporter’ for their partner and as a man they had to be ‘strong and stoic’, putting their emotional needs aside.

The study’s findings were reported on online news outlets, journals and on radio.

Miscarriage affects up to one in four pregnancies in Australia. However, while there has been an increasing amount of research and support services developed for parents experiencing it these have primarily focused on women.

Senior author, the Central Clinical School’s Dr Jade Bilardi, said this is one of the few studies to specifically explore men’s experience of miscarriage.

“We often talk about the toll miscarriage can take on women but we rarely hear about the impact it can have on men.  And when miscarriage is discussed in the media, it is often from a women’s perspective,” Dr Bilardi said.

“What is clear from this study, is that we need to recognise that miscarriage can have a significant impact on men too. Unfortunately, ‘as just the partner’, men’s grief and loss all too often goes unrecognised,” she said.

The men surveyed suggested a number of ways support could be improved, including: acknowledgment of their loss as fathers; the opportunity to talk to others about their loss including mental health professionals and online support networks; and increased availability of more male-orientated information.

“We hope that this study will lead to the development of tailored services and resources tailored for and designed specifically for men, to meet their support needs,” Dr Bilardi said.

Miller EJ, Temple-Smith MJ, Bilardi JE. 'There was just no-one there to acknowledge that it happened to me as well': A qualitative study of male partner's experience of miscarriage.PLoS One. 2019 May 28;14(5):e0217395. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0217395. eCollection 2019.