Date Published: May 28, 2019
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Ellena J. Miller, Meredith J. Temple-Smith, Jade E. Bilardi, Virginia Zweigenthal.
Miscarriage occurs in up to one in four pregnancies and can be a devastating event affecting both men and women. Unfortunately, the male partner’s experience of miscarriage is seldom researched, particularly within Australia. This qualitative study involved semi-structured telephone interviews with 10 Australian men, whose partners miscarried between three months and ten years ago. Participants were recruited through professional networks and support organisations. Interviews explored men’s general miscarriage experience and the support received or lacking from both healthcare providers and social networks. Online health seeking behaviour and opinions on online support were also discussed. Data was transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Most men described feeling significant grief following miscarriage and felt that there was little acknowledgment of their loss, both from healthcare providers and within their social networks. Feelings of sadness, devastation, powerlessness, fear, shock and a loss of identity were common. All men felt their primary role at the time of miscarriage was to support their partner. Most men did not want to burden their partner with their emotions or grief, and struggled to find people within their social networks to talk to about their loss, leading to feelings of isolation. Overall participants felt there was inadequate support offered to men affected by miscarriage. Men wanted information, informed professionals to talk to and male-orientated support networks. A website was one mechanism suggested by men which could adequately contribute to information and support needs during this time. Men are often greatly affected by miscarriage and yet there is all too often little acknowledgement or support available to them at this time. Men affected by miscarriage want and need further support, including reputable, Australian based information and resources tailored their needs.
Miscarriage is a very common pregnancy complication affecting up to one in four pregnancies . In Australia, miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks gestation, with pregnancy loss after 20 weeks termed a stillbirth . Definitions of miscarriage differ between countries, guidelines and publications and may include gestations up to 24 weeks .
This study has been reported in accordance with the Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ) guidelines .
Sixteen men expressed an interest in the study. Four had experienced stillbirth and were ineligible for the study and two did not respond to further contact after they were emailed information about the study. Of the 10 men who participated in the study, nine were recruited through the Bears of Hope Facebook page and one through existing networks. Interview length was 18 to 57 minutes.
To address the gap in Australian literature, this study aimed to explore the male partner’s experience of miscarriage and their need for additional support at this time. It was not uncommon for male partners to experience feelings of grief of a similar intensity to women. However, whereas women often consider their partner as their central support figure at the time of miscarriage , men in this study, commonly reported feeling they could not talk to their partner about their feelings for fear of burdening them further. Expression of grief and loss was also affected by a perceived need for them to be stoic in their support of their partner. This differs to women’s experiences, where they do not report feeling that they have to be strong for their partner. Like women, men commonly reported a lack of emotional support from healthcare and social networks at the time of miscarriage. It appears however that men may have even less support around them at the time of miscarriage, with many stating that healthcare providers, and family and friends directed their acknowledgement and support toward their partners rather than themselves at the time of their loss. Support services and information were also largely targeted at women, leaving men feeling very isolated and alone at the time of miscarriage, and consequently turning to online forums for support and to share their experiences of miscarriage.