How to Support a Friend Who Is Going Through Pregnancy Loss

supporting friend

Chanintorn Vanichsawangphan / EyeEm / Getty Images

Pregnancy loss isn’t something many of us talk about openly, but it’s something experienced more frequently than you might expect. It’s estimated that about 26% of pregnancies result in miscarriage (a pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation), and that one in 160 pregnancies result in a stillbirth (a loss that happens after 20 weeks).

No matter how common these losses are, experiencing one can be devastating. If someone close to you has lost a baby, it can be difficult to know what to say, and how best to support them. You want to give them support, but you don’t want to overstep or make them uncomfortable. Should you step in to help, or give them space? Is it appropriate to give them a gift, and if so, what?

Supporting a friend through pregnancy loss can be challenging, and it’s okay if you aren’t sure at first how to approach it. Just wanting to be there for your friend is a great first step. Here, experts and parents who experienced pregnancy loss offer insight on how best to help.

How to Approach Your Friend at the Beginning

had a very close friend go through a series of miscarriages in between having her first and second children. At first, I had no idea how to support her. I didn’t want to say anything that might make the situation worse, and I wasn’t sure how much she wanted to talk about it.

It’s common for friends and family to be unsure what to say when they first learn about the loss, says Lesley Koeppel, LCSW, a clinical social worker with a specialty in grief counseling. But it’s always a good idea to reach out, even if you aren’t sure what to say.

“Most people fail to recognize this fact and end up doing or saying nothing, which makes the friend who is dealing with this loss feel even more isolated and alone,” she says.

The sooner you reach out, the better, says Koeppel. “If you put it off, then it can be harder for you to take this step,” she says. If you are unsure of what to say—which is totally normal—simply acknowledging their loss is fine. “There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I don’t have any words to say that will make this any better, but I wanted to reach out and let you know that I am so sorry for what you are going through and the immense loss you are dealing with,’” Koeppel suggests. You can also simply say that you are “here for them” and they can let you know if they want to talk further, she adds.

Is It Appropriate to Share Your Own Experiences?

When my friend shared the news of her pregnancy loss with me, I considered sharing my own experience with miscarriage. Though my miscarriage was earlier than hers and less physically uncomfortable, I wanted to show empathy. Still, I wondered if it would be helpful, or if it would upset her more to compare my experience with hers.

Koeppel shares that it’s okay to share your story, but it really depends on how you approach it. She suggests that you can share that you went through something similar, but that you shouldn’t say it in such a way that it takes the focus off your friend.

“This is not the time for you to share your story or your ‘wisdom,’ as that will only help you and not your friend,” she explains.

Laura Malcolm

I found it comforting when people shared their own experiences without comparing.

— Laura Malcolm

Laura Malcolm, a pregnancy loss parent, a board member of the Pregnancy After Loss non-profit, and founder/CEO of Give InKind, agrees with this approach. “I found it comforting when people shared their own experiences without comparing, she notes. Experiencing a pregnancy loss can be extremely lonely, she says, and knowing others have had similar experiences can be reassuring.

Anietie Ukpe-Wallace, PT, DPT, pelvic floor physical therapist, pregnancy loss advocate and someone who suffered through four pregnancy losses herself, also found it comforting when others shared their experiences with her. “When other women came to me and shared their own pregnancy loss experience, it helped me to feel more connected during a time when I felt very alone,” she says. “I felt that I could openly cry and share my story of loss without feeling judged or told that I should get over it.”

Ways to Support Your Friend

After you have shown your friend that you care and that you are there for them emotionally, you might be wondering what other steps you can take to show your support. Thankfully, there are many simple and impactful things you can do during this time that will really make a difference. Here are some ideas.

Take Tasks Off Their Plate

After someone has experienced a pregnancy loss, helping them with basic, practical tasks can make a world of difference, says Ariella Grosse, LMSW, psychotherapist at Prescott Psychotherapy + Wellness in New York City.

“When someone is grieving, even simple daily tasks like walking a dog or making food can feel overwhelming,” she describes. Consider offering to help pick their older kids up from school, walk their dogs, schedule their doctor’s appointments, and pick up groceries. Pitching in for any of these things will lighten the load during this difficult time, Grosse says.

Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About the Baby

Many people think that mentioning the baby that has been lost is a bad idea or will be too painful. But Koeppel says that usually the opposite is true. “Don't be afraid to ask about baby names, the baby’s room, etc.,” she says. These are things your friend is already thinking about, and you will likely not make your friend more sad than they already are by bringing this up, she suggests.

Ukpe-Wallace agrees with this sentiment. She encourages friends to ask what the baby’s name was going to be. Doing so will show that you acknowledge how integral the baby was going to be in the family’s life—how real and important this baby was to them.

Offer to Go to Appointments With Them

Hannah Ly, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist, says that one of the practical ways you can show support for your friend is to offer to take them to healthcare appointments. This may be especially hopeful if they don’t have a partner or family members able to accompany them.

When it came to supporting my own friend, this was one of the ways I was able to support her. I accompanied her to the OB-GYN after her first miscarriage, when she was pregnant a second time. And I was by her bedside within minutes after her rainbow baby was born. These are moments in our friendship that we will always cherish.

Acknowledge Their Pain

It may seem counterintuitive, because what you want most is for their pain to go away, but it’s important to acknowledge the turmoil your friend is going through, says Grosse. “Be there with them. Sit with them in their pain,” she suggests.

Pregnancy loss pain shouldn’t be looked at as something can be “fixed,” at least not right away, she says. “Communicating that you see how much pain someone else is in and staying with them in it can be a powerful tool,” she describes.

Give Meaningful Gifts

You might be unsure if gifts are appropriate at a time like this. They can be, but they should be gifts that have meaning and are personalized. Koeppel suggests that a heartfelt card can be just the right gift.

“A card that acknowledges their loss and even mentions the baby’s name if they had a name will validate and acknowledge the feelings the most,” she recommends.

Other meaningful gifts might include a keepsake box or a memento to help them remember their baby, says Ukpe-Wallace. But practical items that acknowledge the intense physical experience that a pregnancy loss often is can be extremely meaningful as well, she says.

“Provide them with a care package of tea, period pads, OTC pain medication, and a heating pad,” Ukpe-Wallace suggests.

Validate Their Process

All people process the grief of pregnancy loss a little differently, and it can be helpful to acknowledge that there is no one “right’ way to do it, and there is also no timetable for when you should “get over it.”

“If there are times when your friend feels like they are processing ‘wrong’ (too fast, too slow, too much crying, not enough binge ice cream eating, etc.), you should remind them that their experience is their own and there is no right or wrong way to grieve,” says Ly.

It can also be helpful to acknowledge that pregnancy loss can be hard to conceptualize because it’s the loss of an anticipated event (having a baby, finishing a pregnancy, being a parent). This type of loss is talked about less than other types of losses, such as the death of someone you knew well, Ly describes.

It can also be helpful to acknowledge that pregnancy loss can be hard to conceptualize because it’s the loss of an anticipated event (having a baby, finishing a pregnancy, being a parent). This type of loss is talked about less than other types of losses.

Keep in Touch Beyond the Initial Loss Period

Lots of people acknowledge a pregnancy loss right after it happens, but one of the most impactful things you can do is to keep in touch over a longer period of time, says Malcolm. Consider sending periodic texts when you are thinking of your friend, especially in the weeks and months following the loss, she recommends.

“Find ways to honor the baby and text the parents—sending a photo of a candle you've lit, a flower you saw that reminded you of the baby,” Malcom suggests. “Note the baby's birthday in your calendar so you can send a text in future years.” Be sure to mention the baby’s name in your messages, she adds.

What Not to Say and Do

Sometimes knowing what not to say or do is just as important as what you do to support your friend. Our experts helped us come up with a “cheat sheet” of the thing it’s probably best to stay away from.

What Not to Say or Do When a Friend Is Going Through Pregnancy Loss

  • Stay away from common platitudes such as "it will get better,” "you can always try again,” at least it was early,” “you are young and you will have another opportunity,” and "maybe it was meant to be,” says Ukpe-Wallace. These types of phrases just diminish the person’s pain and aren’t helpful.
  • Refrain from giving out advice like, “My sister used this fertility clinic, they were great, and now I have my little nephew,” says Ly. It’s probably best to stay away from medical advice altogether, Koeppel recommends.
  • Don’t leave them out of regular activities or plans, say Ukpe-Wallace. They likely want to feel included, even if they end up saying no. Let the decision be up to them, she suggests.
  • Most importantly, don’t ask when they are trying again, Ukpe-Wallace recommends. You don’t know their fertility journey, and what trying for another baby might entail, nor do you know if they are ready to even think about that.

A Word From Verywell

Helping your friend navigate a pregnancy loss can be difficult and you may have questions along the way. The most important thing to do is show up for your friend, in whatever way makes sense to you, and affirm their feelings.

If you need further support, or if you think your friend needs more support than you are able to give, consider discussing the situation with a therapist or counselor who specializes in grieving after pregnancy loss.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dugas C, Slane VH. Miscarriage. In:StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. 2022.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is Stillbirth?

  3. Cohen R. What Happens After a Miscarriage? An Ob-Gyn Discusses the Options. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.