What Not to Say After a Miscarriage

A woman comforts her sad friend
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Pregnancy loss can be heartbreaking for anyone, even those who conceive relatively quickly and easily. For those that have been trying to conceive for a long time—especially after fertility treatments—the loss can be especially devastating.

Miscarriage after IVF may mean a loss of thousands of dollars and, possibly, the potential to try again. Many do not receive insurance coverage for expensive fertility treatments and it’s not uncommon for a couple to have only enough money to try once or twice. It's important to recognize the need for sensitivity and support.

What Not to Say

People usually mean well, but the wrong words get said way too often to someone who has had a miscarriage. In fact, some of these insensitive statements even come from fellow infertility survivors. If you have a friend or family member who has experienced a miscarriage after infertility, make sure you don't say these seven things.

At Least You Know You Can Get Pregnant

If a person has been trying for years to conceive, getting pregnant and then losing the baby is not reassuring. If anything, it may increase their anxiety about conceiving again.

No one going through infertility is naïve about the risk of miscarriage, but until they experience a pregnancy loss, it’s nice to hold onto the idea that if they just could get pregnant, they could have a baby.

Now, they aren’t just worried that they’ll never get pregnant—they’re also worrying that even if they get pregnant, they may not give birth to a healthy baby.

At Least You Experienced Pregnancy

This sort of comment is common on fertility support forums. But it's not a supportive thing to say. Getting pregnant is not the goal. The goal is to actually have a baby and parent that child.

Clearly, the commenter wishes they could experience a pregnancy, and they're making this comment from a place of hurt. But, it's still not comforting to the person who is dealing with a pregnancy loss. When someone has a miscarriage, it's important to show your support rather than try to minimize their pain by making comparisons.

Now You Know What to Do to Get Pregnant

If only things could be so simple. When people make this comment, they probably think they're being funny. Or maybe they think it's encouraging. But this comment is neither of those things.

By saying this, you’re implying that this entire time, the problem was the couple didn’t know how to get pregnant—like they were missing some sort of skill, knowledge, or magic formula. Fertility and pregnancy don’t work like that.

There are no guarantees for anyone. Even if you try IVF with an egg donor—the treatment with the highest success rate—you're not guaranteed a baby. Plus, let’s say IVF is what finally got them pregnant. They may not have the funds to try again. That’s not even taking into account the emotional and physical stress an IVF cycle puts a couple through.

God/Mother Nature Decided You Weren’t Ready

Do not try to speak for God or Mother Nature. While some people find comfort in religion or spirituality, this is something that must come from within to be effective. Hearing it from someone else is almost always painful.

What's more, it's not the slightest bit comforting to think that they "weren't ready" or that they are somehow being punished by this miscarriage. Plus, making a comment like this is insulting and hurtful and blames the mom for the pregnancy loss.

Don’t Overreact. You Lost a Pregnancy, Not a Baby

Dismissing the grief that can follow a pregnancy loss is common. For many women struggling to conceive, just seeing the second pink line on a pregnancy test is enough to already feel connected to the potential baby developing inside. 

The emotional bond between mother, father, and child begins the moment they find out they are expecting.

The mother and father may start imagining what they will name the baby, whether they think it’s a boy or girl, and how they want to decorate the nursery. Some will even go out and buy a little toy or outfit early in the pregnancy, as a way of making the experience real. They bond strongly with the dream of a child. To lose that dream is to lose a baby—not “just” a pregnancy.

You Were Just Too Stressed Out

Repeat after me: Stress does not cause miscarriage. It’s completely normal to be worried—and stressed—about the pregnancy after struggling with infertility.

Early pregnancy after fertility treatment is often more medically stressful because the mom-to-be may be subjected to more scans and blood work to determine if the pregnancy is developing normally. Don’t blame their stress. It’s untrue and so hurtful.

Did You Eat a Lot of Spicy Foods or Exercise A Lot?

In other words, "What did you do to cause this to happen?" Don’t try to blame them for the loss they're experiencing. First of all, it’s extremely unlikely that anything they did caused the miscarriage. Pregnancy loss—especially early pregnancy loss—is common even for those that aren’t facing infertility.

Most commonly, early pregnancy loss is due to a chromosomal defect that existed the moment fertilization took place. There's nothing the mother could have done to prevent the loss and she certainly didn't cause the loss.

People tend to use blame to make themselves feel safer. “They lost their pregnancy because of XYZ, so as long as I don’t do XYZ, I won’t miscarry.” But it doesn’t work like that. So, drop the blame. Your friend or family member didn't cause the miscarriage.

What to Say Instead

If you're struggling with finding the right words, start by thinking about what you would want someone to say to you in the same situation. Then, try to speak from that place of love and concern.

Keep in mind that many women tend to blame themselves when they suffer a pregnancy loss and often experience a lot of shame and guilt. Consequently, remembering that they're likely hurting and blaming themselves should guide you in being careful with your words.

The goal is to remind them how much you love them and that you are there for them. But you don't have to come up with something elaborate or lengthy to convey your support. Simply saying, "I am so sorry," is enough to anchor them during this painful time.

What to Say

  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • Do you need anything?
  • How are you doing?
  • How can I help?
  • I love you.
  • I’m here for you.
  • I’m so sorry.

Seems too simple? No, not at all. Sometimes, the simplest statements of support are the most appropriate. The important thing is that you let your friend or family member know that they're not alone and that you're thinking of them.

A Word From Verywell

If you have a friend or family member who recently suffered a miscarriage following IVF, it's important that you let them know that you're thinking of them and that you're sorry for their loss. Remaining silent, even if it's because you're afraid to cause more pain, just leaves them feeling more alone and isolated.

Let them know you're there for them, but allow them take the lead during any conversations. Some people will want to process their pain by talking, while others don't want to talk about it. Just be sure that you are careful with your words and avoid trying to explain away or minimize their loss. Doing so just leaves them feeling more confused and upset.

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.