There’s no two ways about it, getting back into having sex after a miscarriage is a completely crap time in a couple’s relationship. If you are healthy and you’ve had a ‘normal’ miscarriage, you can resume sexual relations within four to six weeks after a gynecological check-up.
That’s all good and fine until the four to six weeks pass and it is now time to climb into bed with your partner to have sex. This is the moment things can go two ways: your heartbreaking experience can bring you closer or it can start to subtly pull you two apart.
The communication becomes challenging because miscarriage is fraught with so much emotion there is an understandable propensity to ignore, deny and pretend like it doesn’t exist. It’s the big white elephant of your relationship: omnipresent but no one will discuss that it’s there.
And it certainly doesn’t help that men and women see the pregnancy through a different set of eyes. The woman has had a front-row seat from day one while her partner has been sitting in the wings watching the drama of her morning sickness, excitement and extreme tiredness unfold. After a misscarriage, neither appreciates the other’s perspective.
Kristen Swanson, RN and PhD, surveyed and then did a study around 185 couples who went through a miscarriage. She found that first-time dads did not consider the baby ‘real’ until he held it in his arms for the first time.
Of the respondents, 23% felt their relationship was back to normal one year after their miscarriage and only 6% said their sexual relationship was closer. Over one-third of respondents felt distant from their partner interpersonally and sexually — and were actively avoiding pregnancy.
During this time, the more a woman feels distant from her partner the more she may repress her anger, frustration, confusion and depression. Sex can become a minefield because each sexual encounter is a brutal reminder of her loss. Non-communication means that she spins deeper into a negative emotional spiral, making the sex more difficult to have with her partner over time.
When I suggest to women they need to talk to their partner about how both are feeling, their feedback usually is, “Although he is trying to understand, he just doesn’t get it. He thinks I’m being overly emotional. So I go to my girlfriends for support.”
It’s always healthy and a great idea to seek outside support. However, although it might be difficult to get him to open up emotionally, by not talking about his feelings, he will be even more alienated. There’s the rub. Even though both experienced this loss together, they are pushing each other away. There can be no intimacy with this dynamic.
Swanson encourages couples to start with naming what they have lost, and then discussing how they feel about their loss. The partner who is listening needs to close their mouth, open their ears and appreciate what the other person has been going through. Once you’ve climbed this hurdle, discuss if you want to have a ceremony of sorts to mark the loss—to grieve it properly, to make it real and then put it to rest.
Only by communicating, grieving and then making motions to move forward can your relationship not hang in post-miscarriage limbo.
Now, when you two climb into bed after four to six weeks, it’s not going to be the awkward experience. Instead, let it be the glue which brings you even closer to your partner than before your miscarriage, easing you into pregnancy once again.