Last fall, my friend Rachel* invited me for a big night out to celebrate her birthday, but a few weeks shy of the big day, I received bigger news: she was expecting. I was thrilled, and the big night out was downgraded to dinner with friends.
A few weeks went by and as we texted to choose a place to meet that Saturday night — wine for me, none for her — she mentioned that she was bleeding and really concerned. She was worried about the baby, but after stressing all day and being unable to see her doctor over the weekend, she wanted to get out of the house and be with friends.
So many questions ran through her head and mine. Was this implantation bleeding? Was this perfectly normal? Should we go to the hospital? And the big one: was she having a miscarriage?
As we found out later that evening from a nurse friend we called at midnight out of desperation when Rachel’s bleeding continued, bleeding during pregnancy could mean any number of things, from a miscarriage to nothing. But the rule of thumb is this: if you bleed through more than one pad an hour, then something might be off and you should go to the hospital.
Rachel was bleeding steadily, like a period, but not enough to warrant alarm, so we took the only advice the nurse could offer: to wait it out. That Monday, Rachel went to the doctor and found out that her hormone levels were low, signaling that she did, unfortunately, lose the baby. The text I received saying, “I lost it,” put me in delicate position — one I wasn’t sure how to handle.
Miscarriages are more common than you might think, occurring in nearly one of every six pregnancies. And if your friends are just starting to jump on the baby bandwagon, you may, like me, end up saying a few things you later regret upon hearing the news of the first one. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you feel a little more prepared than I was.
Ignore her. Don’t pull the “I’m giving her space” card. Make sure she knows you are there for her in her time of need as much or as little as she wants. Reach out to her right away and then feel out whether she wants to talk or be alone.
Assume. Don’t try to reason with her that losing a baby after a few weeks is any easier to deal with than further down the line. A loss is a loss no matter how you cut it.
Rationalize. Don’t try to give her rational, positive messages like “you got pregnant once, you can do it again,” or anything along these lines. It won’t make her feel better and is a major no at this point in time.
Be useful. Be there for her. Offer to take care of errands or cook her a meal. She might be feeling hopeless and could use a friend to help get her through the day.
Reiterate. Make sure you tell her at least twice that it’s not her fault. Even though a doctor will tell every woman experiencing a miscarriage that they’ve done nothing wrong, women often put the blame on themselves and analyze what they did to make a miscarriage happen.
Send something. If you can’t be with her, send her flowers, a card, or something sentimental that will show her you care about what she’s going through. It will brighten her day.
Check in on the spouse. If they’re aware that you know about the situation, check in with them as well. They need support too.
Lastly, when in doubt, talk it through with someone who’s been through a pregnancy before and can offer some insight into what she might be feeling.