Navigating the taboo: Miscarriage, language and creating a space

In the field of women's health, there exist numerous subjects that are, unfortunately, shrouded in silence and steeped in taboo. Among these topics, perhaps one of the most sensitive is miscarriage.


As a therapist specialising in women's health, I wish to address this issue head-on, providing not only support but also facilitating a shift in the way we talk about, perceive and handle miscarriage.

Statistics tell us that about 15-20% of recognised pregnancies end in pregnancy loss, yet it remains a topic that is often misunderstood and inadequately discussed. For many women and their families, a pregnancy loss is accompanied by a sense of profound loss, isolation and stigma that is only intensified by the silence surrounding the topic.

The term miscarriage has its roots in late Middle English, where the prefix mis- was used to indicate something done incorrectly and carriage referred to the act of carrying. So etymologically, 'miscarriage' means 'the wrong or an act of carrying'. By the 19th century, it had evolved to specifically refer to the premature loss of a pregnancy before the foetus is able to survive outside the womb.

A more compassionate term we can use for a miscarriage is pregnancy loss. This term respects the gravity of the event and provides a factual description without casting any implied judgement or blame on the woman who has experienced the loss. Language is powerful and shapes how we perceive experiences, including pregnancy loss. By choosing our words carefully, we can create a more supportive and understanding environment for those who have gone through such a loss. By employing more compassionate and neutral language, we can reduce feelings of guilt and shame while fostering an environment of understanding and empathy.

In order to challenge the prevailing silence surrounding pregnancy loss, we must endeavour to create safe spaces for open dialogue. Discussion does not just break the taboo, it also helps those affected by pregnancy loss to make sense of their feelings and experiences. Communication leads to understanding, which in turn fosters support. As a community, it is our duty to offer a non-judgmental platform where women can share their stories, find solace in the experiences of others and be reassured that they are not alone.

Healthcare professionals, therapists and counsellors have a significant role to play in breaking down these barriers. As practitioners, we must recognise the grief associated with pregnancy loss and respond with sensitivity and empathy. Instead of considering it as merely a physical event, we must acknowledge the emotional and psychological implications of the loss and provide appropriate care.

Remember, every woman's experience with pregnancy loss is unique. Not all women will react in the same way and not all will heal in the same manner. Therefore, providing personalised care that considers the individual’s needs, beliefs and values is fundamental.

Moreover, it is crucial to involve and educate family members about the reality of pregnancy loss. This is not a woman's burden to bear alone but a familial experience that requires collective understanding and empathy. By fostering an environment where family members can express their feelings and ask questions, we can ensure that the support system is strong, informed and sensitive.

Breaking the taboo around pregnancy loss is not an overnight endeavour. It requires constant efforts from each one of us—therapists, healthcare professionals, family and society at large. But by changing our language, fostering open conversations and providing empathetic, personalised care, we can gradually transform pregnancy loss from a whispered secret into a shared experience.

As a therapist, I am acutely aware of the psychological impact that pregnancy loss can have on a woman. Many may experience symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), such as recurring distressing memories, heightened anxiety, feelings of intense guilt and sleep disturbances. Understandably, the traumatic nature of a pregnancy loss, coupled with the emotional intensity of the loss, can lead to such reactions.

This is where eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy comes in, a therapeutic approach I often employ with clients dealing with PTSD following a pregnancy loss. EMDR is a recognised and interactive psychotherapy technique that aids in the processing of traumatic memories and importantly, changes how these memories are stored in the brain to reduce distress.

What draws me to EMDR as a therapeutic tool is its effectiveness in helping women confront and cope with the traumatic memories linked to their pregnancy loss. It creates an environment where these memories can be processed in a less distressing manner, allowing women to navigate their path to emotional healing.

However, I must stress that every woman's experience with pregnancy loss is unique and so is their path to healing. Therefore, while EMDR is a valuable tool in my therapeutic toolkit, I ensure the care I provide is tailored to each client's specific needs and circumstances. If a woman is experiencing PTSD symptoms after a pregnancy loss, I work closely with her to discuss treatment options, which could include EMDR if appropriate. It's this individualised, sensitive approach to therapy that I believe is crucial in supporting women through such a difficult time.

By talking about this subject, we will not only help women and families navigate through the pain but also create a community that is more supportive, understanding and resilient in the face of loss. We owe it to ourselves, and to the countless women who have endured this experience to create a world where pregnancy loss is no longer a taboo, but a journey towards healing that we undertake together.

Here are some valuable resources:

Professional therapists and counsellors: Seek out therapists who specialise in reproductive issues or grief counselling. They are trained to help navigate the complexities of emotions following a pregnancy loss and can provide a safe space to express feelings and concerns.

Support groups: There are numerous online and in-person support groups for individuals and families who have experienced pregnancy loss. Sharing experiences with others who have gone through similar circumstances can be incredibly therapeutic. Examples include Miscarriage Association, Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, and Resolve: The National Infertility Association.

Healthcare providers: Obstetricians, gynaecologists and other healthcare providers can offer medical guidance and emotional support, answer questions, and help with physical recovery.

Books and literature: Books like Miscarriage: Women Sharing from the Heart by Marie Allen and Shelly Marks, or Healing Your Grieving Heart After Miscarriage: 100 Practical Ideas for Parents and Families by Alan D. Wolfelt and Raelynn Maloney can provide comfort, insights and practical advice.

Mental health apps: Apps like Headspace, Calm, or Talkspace offer mindfulness exercises and direct contact with mental health professionals to help manage anxiety and promote well-being.

Family and friends: Sometimes, the best support comes from loved ones. Opening up about the experience to a trusted friend or family member can provide a strong emotional support network.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Guildford GU5 & GU2
Guildford GU5 & GU2

Donna Morgan is a highly experienced Humanistic Mental Health Therapist with 26 years of practice. Her passion for helping individuals with their mental health has driven her to develop a compassionate and holistic approach to therapy. Donna firmly believes in treating each client as a unique individual and providing them with personalised support.

Show comments

Find a therapist dealing with Miscarriage

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals