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By Mariya Greeley
Pregnancy loss is more common than many realize: About 10 percent to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet, despite the prevalence of pregnancy loss, it can still be a physically and emotionally traumatic experience.
On top of the grief of losing a pregnancy, there is a stigma surrounding miscarriages. Even well-meaning advice to wait to share news of a pregnancy until after the first trimester, at which point the risk of miscarriage is lower, reinforces an idea that pregnancy loss is something to keep private.
Here, four Massachusetts-based women share their experiences with pregnancy loss to change that stigma and let others know they’re not alone.
Shervonne ConeyFounder and CEO of Black Women and InfertilityBoston
In 2021, Shervonne Coney, 43, found out she was pregnant. After 20 years of battling infertility, she was in excited disbelief.
“Are you kidding me? I’m actually pregnant after all this time?” Coney remembers thinking.
She started spotting early in the pregnancy and felt uneasy, but everyone assured her that many women who spot go on to have healthy babies.
At her 11-week check-up, she learned she had a miscarriage. “I just went numb,” she says.
Coney took on her grief one day at a time and worked with her therapist to help her through a complex mix of emotions, including guilt and shame, which is common among people who experience miscarriages. “She helped me to express my feelings openly and authentically,” Coney says, and eventually she was able to open up to friends and family too. Coney also found that supporting women in similar situations helped her heal. “When I supported other women,” she says, “it was like, ‘Okay, if you are telling them this and you want them to receive it so that they can feel better and heal, then you have to do this for yourself as well.’”
Working with the online community of women she founded, Black Women and Infertility, has given Coney perspective too. “The number of women of color and Black women who experience miscarriages is staggering,” Coney notes. According to a global study published in The Lancet, Black women are at a 43 percent higher risk than white women for pregnancy loss.
Amanda Griffith Media relations consultantNorton
The third time Amanda Giffith, 46, got pregnant, “I just sort of knew I didn’t feel right,” she says.
In 2012, Griffith had two miscarriages, including one ectopic pregnancy — a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus — that threatened her life and required emergency surgery.
She didn’t know how to process the losses. She wasn’t sure she had the right to grieve when she had two healthy daughters at home and had lost her pregnancies relatively early on, at seven or eight weeks. She reached out to a group called HEAL — Helping Educate After Loss — at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
Through working with HEAL, Griffith came to understand that “a loss is a loss,” she says. “When you find out that you’re pregnant, that’s something that becomes a part of you.”
For years after that, Griffith helped organize HEAL’s Babies Remembered service, a ceremony for families grieving the loss of a baby or child. “It just sort of made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” she says. “It wasn’t a club that I wanted to be in, but I wasn’t alone.”
Kate WhiteAuthor and OBGYN at Boston Medical CenterBraintree
Kate White, 51, remembers looking up at a crowd of concerned faces after she passed out while giving a lecture in 2007. She was seven months pregnant.
In an abrupt shift, White went from being a doctor used to taking care of people to the one who needed care. White learned later that the pregnancy had caused an undiagnosed aneurysm, located in the artery to her spleen, to rupture.
White’s colleagues needed to perform emergency surgery to save her and her baby.
“My first words after they took the breathing tube out of my mouth were, ‘did the baby make it?’” she says. “My husband was the one who told me no.”
White found a therapist who she saw weekly for years. “[They] helped me work through profound sadness and overwhelming guilt about having lived while my daughter died because the first job you have as a parent is to keep your kids safe, and I felt like I had failed,” she says. “It doesn’t matter that my rational brain knew that there was nothing I did to create the aneurysm or to cause it to rupture.”
As a way to help others, she later wrote “Your Guide to Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss.” In February 2023, White spent the sixteenth anniversary of losing her daughter in a miscarriage clinic, taking care of other women facing losses.
Hyemin PomerantzDermatologist, VivaSkin Dermatology and Aesthetics Needham
Hyemin Pomerantz, 37, grew up as an only child and knew she wanted a larger family for her kids. However, when trying to have a second child during her dermatology residency, she experienced two consecutive miscarriages in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s really devastating finding out this didn’t come to fruition and it feels like a failure. People tend to look back and try to think about what they did wrong,” Pomerantz says. “But really a lot of times it’s not that we did anything wrong, it just happened that way, so just be kind to yourself.”
Through DNA testing, Pomerantz learned there were chromosomal abnormalities completely out of her control involved in her miscarriages. In fact, random chromosomal abnormalities like these are associated with about 50 percent of miscarriages.
Pomerantz continued trying to grow her family. “It was always nerve-wracking each time I found out I was pregnant after miscarriage,” she says. “It was always looming above me.”
Eventually, Pomerantz added two more children to her family, one in 2020 and one in 2022.
Support for pregnancy loss
Resources are available for those who have experienced pregnancy loss, including many support groups and mental health counseling.
For instance, Ovia Health, an online platform for family health including fertility, pregnancy, parenting, and menopause, offers support and resources for any members reporting a miscarriage or pregnancy loss. And members with participating health plans, including Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan, can use each app’s asynchronous messaging service to ask health care experts questions anonymously and get connected to in-network providers.
“They feel like they can open up to us about things that they might feel uncomfortable bringing up in a face-to-face visit,” says Lisa Richards, manager of the women’s and family health care team at Ovia Health.
Her team frequently answers questions ranging from how members can respond to questions from people who knew they were pregnant to when it’s safe for members to start trying to become pregnant again. “As a certified nurse midwife who has taken care of people in pregnancy who have experienced loss and as someone who has had a loss myself, I know everyone’s experience is really different,” says Richards. “There’s no one single experience of loss, no right or wrong way to feel.”
If you have experienced pregnancy loss, you are far from alone. Though it’s not often discussed, it is a common experience and you don’t need to feel shame in bringing it up or reaching out for support from family, friends, therapists, or health care providers. Plus, you never know when sharing your experience will allow someone else to share theirs.
Point32Health is a nonprofit health and well-being organization, guiding and empowering healthier lives for all. Throughout all of life’s stages and challenges, our family of companies inclusive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan support members and their families with whole-health benefits and solutions.
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