By Elaine Nsoesie and Nina Cesare
Losing a pregnancy because of a miscarriage can be a difficult and painful experience, one that people often don't talk about even among friends and family. Women who suffer miscarriages can feel shame and isolation. Some even blame themselves.
There are also many public misperceptions of miscarriage. For example, more than half of the respondents to a 2015 survey incorrectly believed that miscarriages occur rarely, in 5 percent or less of all pregnancies. Actually, about 15 percent to 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage each year. That brings the total number of miscarriages each year to somewhere between 750,000 and 1 million.
But the perception that miscarriage is rare and not something to be talked about may be changing. Last year, celebrities including rapper Azealia Banks, the singer Halsey and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay publicly disclosed miscarriages, following other celebrities such as Beyoncé and Mark Zuckerberg in previous years. There were also news articles in popular publications such as Time magazine and The Washington Post regarding personal experiences and the need to break the shroud of silence surrounding miscarriage.
As public health researchers, we wanted to find out whether these public conversations have had an impact on how people discuss and react to miscarriage.
Miscarriage studies tend to be small, because it is difficult to find women willing to participate. So we decided to look at one space where public conversations are taking place: social media. Given that many people use social media to share their feelings and thoughts, it was unsurprising to find discussion of miscarriage on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Elaine Nsoesie, Assistant Professor of Global Health, is a lead author of this study.