health

After miscarriage, women seek support, emotional outlet on Instagram

8 Comments

Expressing grief and other emotions, and connecting with others who have had similar losses, are some of the ways women use the photo-sharing platform Instagram to cope with a miscarriage, researchers say.

In analyzing hundreds of posts under the "ihadamiscarriage" hashtag, the study team observed that women use the social media site for finding community and "breaking the silence" around pregnancy loss. Healthcare providers should consider discussing this outlet as a resource, the researchers write in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Up to 20% of pregnancies result in miscarriage, and while information on diagnosis and medical care is widely available, the psycho-social implications of fetal loss are less widely discussed, the authors note.

"Our culture has a convention of not disclosing pregnancies until they are in the second trimester - when it is 'safe' to tell people, because the pregnancy is probably going to be fine," said study leader Dr Rebecca Mercier of Sidney Kimmel Medical College in Philadelphia.

This means many women go through miscarriage without social support and are often in situations where they are coping with and possibly grieving a loss that others may not know, she said.

Mercier and her team were interested in getting a more "unfiltered view" of women's responses to miscarriage by looking at how women described their experiences on Instagram.

The researchers reviewed 200 Instagram posts selected over five days in the spring of 2019 with the #ihadamiscarriage tag, a campaign started by Los Angeles-based psychologist Jessica Zucker.

The overarching theme behind sharing experiences on social media was to seek support and to offer it, the researchers found. Miscarriages were depicted as pivotal and life-defining moments, with posts that reflected women's new identity as a mother despite having lost their baby.

Grief was the most commonly expressed emotion, followed by conflicted emotions, anger, regret and hope. Many posts were found to contain not just one emotion, such as grief, but described several feelings simultaneously, the study team notes.

Some posts also described the reactions of family members, friends and colleagues, including comments women found insensitive and hurtful.

"Many of the things that friends and acquaintances often say to women who have had miscarriages are not helpful and bordering on insensitive," said Dr Michael Greene of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the study. "Those kinds of dismissive remarks are not helpful to women who are grieving over the loss of a pregnancy."

Most women turned to religion as a means of processing and coping with their loss. Many memorialized the miscarriage in a variety of ways, including planting trees, getting tattoos, creating a memorial or artwork, and naming the baby.

"Some of the content posted suggests that people are developing their own ways of remembrance and memorial for their loss, and sharing these on social media may be its own form of grieving ritual for our age," Mercier said.

Several posts spoke of women seeking help for anxiety and depression and attending professional therapy or counseling, while others emphasized self-care, including exercise, nutrition and wellness.

Mercier cautions that any woman sharing her experience on social media would risk opening themselves to negative comments, and that sharing and finding support online should not replace seeking professional help, when needed.

"The internet has an ugly side to it . . . I'm very hesitant to recommend something like going to the internet to solve your problems," Greene said, adding that he prefers to refer women to therapists or even other patients who have had similar experiences.

The study does not prove posting on Instagram actually resulted in a greater degree of resolution or coming to peace with the event as compared to talking with a licensed healthcare professional, he added.

"It's important for healthcare providers to simply appreciate that this can be a very devastating experience for your patient and to not dismiss and minimize it and to recognize it as the woman does - as this kind of a life event," Greene said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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I hope this spreads to Japan but I doubt it.

I had two miscarriages in Japan. Both were treated by my OBGYN's and staff with absolutely no regard for my well being. The first was just a clinical coldness, basically telling me I was lucky that at least it was 'early' at 7 weeks. The second was at 13 weeks and my OBGYN (at the time) essentially blamed it on my 'bad American habits' claiming I was overweight (at the time I was a kick boxer and was in better physical condition than probably any other pregnant woman in that office). Luckily that followed with a relatively healthy pregnancy and birth of my daughter. I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant until almost 7 months when it was very hot and I couldn't hide it any longer.

I don't expect this is much different in the rest of the world, either. Miscarriages are treated, for whatever reason, as something shameful when in reality they're completely normal. Yet women are forced to suffer mostly in silence, again and again.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@savethegaijin - I am sorry for your losses, it must have been incredibly hard for you, and made worse by people's shocking disregard for your feelings.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Interesting! But WHY? If a foetus is only a clump of cells, what's the problem here? Why are these women so adversely affected by the discharge of a clump of cells?

OH! Maybe these women realize that they just lost a BABY!

I guess those who want to get pregnant see it as a baby and those who don't want to be pregnant, try hard to convince themselves it is nothing more than a clump of cells.

"Lighten up! It was only a clump of cells!"

Hmmm. Doesn't seem like a very encouraging thing to say to these women who are grieving over the loss of their baby, but basically, this is what the Pro-Choice folk have to say because they could never advocate for the right to kill an unborn baby, right?

Or could they? Nothing would surprise me any more. We keep sinking to new lows every week/month/year. Some have actually advocated for the right to kill newborns who survived abortion!

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Seems like a very accurate statement even though these words were penned over 2500-2600 years ago! We humans have not improved at all. Where is the evolution? All I see is things getting worse! The heart is sinful and capable of real evil.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

@tjguy

Proving once again that people who are pro forced birth are disgusting.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Narcissism at its finest in this look at me generation.

Why must all personal things in life be broadcast to the world on social media? They are private issues.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I think the woman man, should be her emotional support, if not they should not be having children with him in the first place

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

My wife had one after our first child. It was very early. It is a very sensitive and sad situation with the loss of potential life.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@ tjguy

I believe the same source you are quoting also suggests "Judge not lest ye be judged."

You might want to take that to heart and perhaps think about how hurtful your rant might be to others. Yes, you are entitled to free speech; however, greater sensitivity and diplomacy would fall under the umbrella of simple good manners.

@ savethegaijin

Deepest condolences. You did not deserve to be treated in that manner or have your grief callously dismissed.

@ oldman_13

Some people need to share. That does not make them narcissists simply because there are others who do not. What is private for you, someone else might need to express. The important thing is to acknowledge and treat others' grief with the dignity and grace it deserves even though you would handle it differently if it were your grief.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

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