Why Can’t People Understand How Hard It Is To Have a Miscarriage?

By Alice Domar, PhD
Executive Director
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF

For the past few months, the psychologists at the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health have been offering a within-the-hour, onsite, free mini crisis management session to patients who come in for a prenatal ultrasound but no heartbeat is seen. I feel that it is crucial when you receive such unexpected, devastating news to have at least a few minutes to talk, make a plan as to how you can cope over the next few days and learn how to deal with the reactions of others.

It is the reaction of others which really bugs me. I had a miscarriage about eleven years ago and although the vast majority of family and friends were wonderful, compassionate, and understanding — the comment of one family member still sticks with me. I was asked if I had had “a real miscarriage”. That question completely stunned me.

Is there even such a thing as a “fake” miscarriage? 

The pain, both physical and emotional, sure felt real to me!

What I advise my patients is that our society is not really comfortable with pregnancy loss and thus, the reactions of others may well seem unfeeling or callous. After all, in our mother’s day, women were basically ordered not to tell anyone they were pregnant until after the first trimester, so that if they miscarried, no one would know. When a relative of mine got pregnant many years ago and subsequently miscarried, she told all of her close friends and was stunned by how many of them then told her that they had experienced a loss as well. She told me that the stories were coming out of the woodwork, yet she had not known about any of the other losses until she shared her own story.

When one experiences a pregnancy loss, it is not only the end of a much-desired quest for parenthood, it is also the loss of all the hopes and dreams for that child. Many of us begin to discuss baby names as soon as a pregnancy is confirmed. Nursery colors might have been imagined and fantasies of pregnancy announcements and joyous family events are common.  So when a pregnancy ends, it is not just the physical impact of the loss, it can be a profound emotional one as well.

If you ever experience a miscarriage, your biggest priority should be to protect yourself. Allow yourself to grieve in the way you need to, and don’t let anyone tell you how you should be feeling or coping. Having a pregnancy end even 24 hours after the first positive test can still be a terrible loss, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!



Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.

Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.

She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.

She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards.  Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network BeWell.com.