Health

Mark Zuckerberg Just Highlighted a Painful Health Issue That's Rarely Discussed

July 31st 2015

By:
Laura Donovan

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed in a Facebook post Friday that he and his wife Priscilla Chan are expecting their first child. As excited as they are to expand their family, he added that this is a bittersweet moment for him, as Chan has experienced three miscarriages in recent years. Although many people do not broach the subject in our culture, according to a recent NPR report, up to 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.

 

Priscilla and I have some exciting news: we're expecting a baby girl!This will be a new chapter in our lives. We've...

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, July 31, 2015


"You feel so hopeful when you learn you're going to have a child," he wrote. "You start imagining who they'll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they're gone. It's a lonely experience. Most people don't discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you -- as if you're defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own."

Zuckerberg added that talking about this kind of experience can bring others together. He and his wife learned along the way that it's a common struggle for many.

"When we started talking to our friends, we realized how frequently this happened -- that many people we knew had similar issues and that nearly all had healthy children after all," he wrote. "We hope that sharing our experience will give more people the same hope we felt and will help more people feel comfortable sharing their stories as well. Our good news is that our pregnancy is now far enough along that the risk of loss is very low and we are very hopeful."

Why some people feel ashamed after miscarriages

Zuckerberg's revelation comes at a time when it is common for many Facebook users to announce their pregnancies on the social media platform. Like Zuckerberg, many people wait until the pregnancy is far enough along that miscarriages are less likely to occur and the parents are comfortable to share. Of course, there are exceptions, and those who miscarry after making giant announcements on social media find themselves struggling to spread the devastating news.

Three years ago, a woman named Wendy Chin-Tanner wrote a painful article about the shame associated with not being about to maintain her pregnancy.

"I was angry because I had told so many people about this pregnancy and I was ashamed to have somehow 'lost' it," Chin-Tanner wrote. "I was angry at the very fact that I was feeling this shame. And angry that there was an expectation that I should have waited until it was a 'sure thing' before announcing it, as if there could ever be a sure thing in this world anyway. I was angry that my imprudence might be seen by some as a form of hubris for which I was being punished."

Chin-Tanner said in a Facebook post that societal silence on miscarriages makes the experience even lonelier and harder for the woman who has just lost a child.

“Miscarriages suck, and one of the worst things about them is the silence that surrounds them," she wrote. "As a culture, we are socialized to not talk about them publicly or worse, pretend they never happened. Well, fuck that. Right now, I am going through my second miscarriage in a row: first one at 5.5 weeks; this one at 7.5 weeks.”

Several years ago, Cassie Murdoch of Jezebel noted that having a miscarriage after announcing one's pregnancy on Facebook can be harmful because it forces the grieving woman to talk about what happened over and over again, "The other downside to being publicly pregnant on Facebook is that if you lose the baby and everyone knows, it means having to talk about it with people, even if you're not in the mood. After all, people assume if you've put it on Facebook that you want to hear what they have to say about it, even if you haven't had a face-to-face conversation with them in 20 years."

Miscarriage grief and depression

In addition to causing feelings of shame, miscarriage also puts women at risk of depression and anxiety in the years following her loss, according to University of Rochester Medical Center psychiatry professor Emma Robertson Blackmore, whose research also found that women who have children after a miscarriage are more likely to experience postpartum depression.

"Because it is medically common, the impact of miscarriage is often underestimated," Janet Jaffe, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego, told the American Psychological Association in 2012. "But miscarriage is a traumatic loss, not only of the pregnancy, but of a woman's sense of self and her hopes and dreams of the future. She has lost her ‘reproductive story,' and it needs to be grieved."

Common miscarriage misconceptions

Though certain people assume there is something physiologically wrong with women who miscarry, and some women even blame themselves for not being able to carry their pregnancies to term, it is more prevalent than many realize. Part of the problem is the lack of open dialog on the matter.

As earlier stated, NPR reported in May that up to 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriages. Zev Williams, Ph.D., an OB-GYN who directs the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center in New York, told the publication that miscarriage is "by far the most common complication of pregnancy."

"Miscarriage is ancient," he said. "It's always been there, [and] people often blame themselves and don't discuss it."