A few months before the world turned upside down, I decided to get my life in order. I waited nervously outside the Union Square office of psychotherapist Gillian O’Shea Brown, LCSW and author of the book Healing Complex Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Clinician’s Guide. I was about to begin EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). I was both excited and terrified. I had read about the process, which sounded akin to hypnosis, and I imagined myself having to wear a robotic headset with flashing lights. I had a friend who received the treatment and found incredible peace from her sessions—I knew the experience would be emotionally intense but also that it could be helpful. I was scared and skeptical, but also ready to go deeper into my psyche.
While New Zealand’s bill is a step in the right direction, there’s so much more to be done both within the country itself—many argue that three days of paid bereavement leave isn’t sufficient—and in the world at large. The U.S. needs to step up and help forge the new path forward for support around pregnancy loss. As Strauss says, “We need to build policies that center the humanity of women and childbearing people, meet their needs, and treat them with dignity, no matter the outcome of their pregnancy.”
Miscarriages are a common and urgent health issue—and there are many studies that highlight the connection between miscarriage and negative health outcomes for women. In fact, a recent 2020 study found that one in six women who have a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy face long-term post-traumatic stress. “The grieving process is different for every person, and it is not practical to put a timeline on someone’s grief, but we do know that it is important to have time and space to be able to process loss,” explains Maria Brann, Ph.D., MPH, a professor in the department of communication studies in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI who explores the integration of health, interpersonal, and gender communication. “If a woman is expected to return to work too quickly after a miscarriage, before her body and mind have some time to heal from the recent loss, it will likely prolong the negative health effects.” Brann also makes it a point to underline that men also experience some of the same negative mental-health outcomes, and so they must cope with the loss as well. “This is not a gendered issue where women are weaker—both sexes need to process their grief and loss,” says Brann, hence the call for policies that attend to the needs of both the pregnant person and their partner.
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