Men report many of the same feelings of grief as women do in response to a pregnancy loss. Men are more likely, however, to hide their feelings, for example by burying themselves in work, and they are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol.
In a review of 29 research articles, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed method approaches, women showed significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety after the loss of a pregnancy than men in most studies, and these tend to last for longer. In two studies, however, using a ‘Perinatal Grief Scale’, men had similar scores on average to women. But the way that men and women manage their feelings tends to be different. Men’s response is typically avoidant – not accessing support, not showing feelings and focusing on work.
The research using qualitative approaches (13 articles in total) revealed that many men see themselves as the “supporter” of the woman, having to appear strong, and that this sometimes happens at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. Feelings of frustration and helplessness can be strong, despite appearances.
Some of the studies showed that many men feel there is a lack of social recognition for their loss, something also reported by women. Men can feel overlooked and marginalised.
When asked about their experience of loss, some men reported a deep sense of loss for the hopes and dreams they had visualised for their baby and for themselves as a father.
The researchers comment on the lack of understanding of men’s mental health and the need for such understanding to be brought into play in supporting families after the loss of a pregnancy.
Due C, Chiarolli S& Riggs DW (2017), The impact of pregnancy loss on men’s health and wellbeing: a systematic review, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17
Photo: Aleksandra Dreval. Creative Commons.