Miscarriage was once a taboo topic. But in recent years, more women, including Michelle Obama, Chrissy Teigen, Meghan Markle and Britney Spears, have shared their experiences of miscarriage and pregnancy loss. Their stories fight stigma, normalize the grief that miscarriage brings and help others learn what to say when a someone has a miscarriage.
Until very recently, however, men and miscarriage were rarely discussed. But for women who know they’re pregnant, some estimates say 10% to 15% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. That means each year, millions of women and men are coping with the pain of the loss of life and the loss of the hopes and dreams they had for their child.
We hope by discussing men and miscarriage grief, we can help more people get the support they need and know they are not alone.
A look at men and miscarriage grief
“While the focus is mainly on the mother, and rightfully so, the man’s feelings must also be validated and supported because he was always a part of the creation process,” says Mykal Manswell, a licensed mental health counselor with Thriveworks. “The man may experience intense feelings such as blame, guilt, anger, confusion and grief.”
Men may not deal with the physical changes after miscarriage, but the loss is just as real. Their complex emotions deserve attention and validation. They also need resources to cope with the loss and their feelings surrounding pregnancy loss.
Both women and men experience a wide range of emotions and reactions to a miscarriage. Research notes that men and miscarriage grief vary, and men might be be balancing their unacknowledged grief while trying to support their partner.
“Men tend to favor more internal processes,” says Angela Caldwell, a licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of Caldwell Family Institute.
“They are more likely to get busy, either with work, around the house, or with extracurricular activities, and typically use that time for private thought or reflection about the experience,” she says. “It’s important for their female partners not to mistake this as ‘checking out’ or otherwise avoiding their grief.”
Experts say that people receive cues on how they should react emotionally from external sources. So if someone grew up in a family where the men didn’t cry, they may have internalized an expectation of manhood that involves holding back their tears.
Or, they might have been told to “man up” when they were teenagers and no longer share as many vulnerable emotions. Finally, some men may have endured a traumatic experience that makes them afraid to express their feelings.
“There seems to be a general misunderstanding that men do not feel the hurt because they’re supposed to be strong,” says Gregorio Lozano, a licensed professional counselor and partner provider for Grow Therapy.
“This can be changed by helping men and society as a whole [understand] that there’s more courage by being able to be vulnerable with their emotions; that rather than a sign of weakness, which is how society has made this out to be, it is actually a sign of courage.”
Processing miscarriage grief
For men dealing with miscarriage who don’t have an outlet for their pain and grief, the results can be harmful.
“If [the grief] process is ignored, neglected or dismissed, then he risks developing something called ‘complicated bereavement,’ a condition where grief goes unprocessed, sometimes even unacknowledged,” explains Caldwell. “Complicated bereavement is like grief on steroids—it lasts much longer, is far more severe, and gets worse over time.”
Stuffing emotions can also lead to mental health struggles. And ignoring depression and anxiety is dangerous, opening the door to physical issues and further mental health problems.
That mental distress can have devastating results. For example, in 2020, men died by suicide almost four times the rate of women. Ten percent of fathers also endure paternal depression, another men’s health issue that’s not often discussed.
Resources for men and miscarriage
Resources are available for men who are struggling to process the pain of pregnancy loss. They can seek support groups, like the father-focused ones created by Postpartum Support International. Or talk with a therapist to have a professional guide them on their grief journey.
Communicating with a partner who is also experiencing their own grief and pain may bring each person comfort as they work through their emotions together.
Journaling, finding a therapeutic hobby and leaning on faith and spiritual resources can also bring comfort. But, ultimately, the most important thing for men dealing with a miscarriage is to acknowledge and address the feelings around pregnancy loss.
“Men should be afforded the same respect for their grieving processes as women,” Caldwell says. “They should be given time, space and compassion, no matter how similar or different their struggles are from their counterparts.”
A note from Motherly: Men and miscarriage grief
If you are in crisis, please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline immediately at 988. There’s help out there—and a lot of reason for hope.
Mykal Manswell, MS, LCMHCA, is a licensed clinical mental health counselor at Thriveworks, where he specializes in helping young adults, adults and couples with a wide range of challenges, including separation anxiety, financial issues, anxiety, depression, relationship issues, PTSD and more.
Angela Caldwell, MA, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and family coach. She serves as the founder and director of the Caldwell Family Institute in Los Angeles, specializing in family-based coaching.
Obst KL, Due C, Oxlad M, et al. Men’s grief following pregnancy loss and neonatal loss: a systematic review and emerging theoretical model. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 20, 11 (2020). doi:10.1186/s12884-019-2677-9