Today, we’ll be discussing a very sensitive topic. That is, reproductive trauma.
And while it can be difficult to talk about, it is definitely something that needs to be discussed in general.
To start a global conversation with the right support is the goal. But this may be thinking big.
That is why, with the resources we have, we would love to approach the topic.
With many individuals facing unbearable pain because of it, both physical and psychological, we hope to offer comfort in the form of tools that may help you to deal with this kind of trauma.
The term ‘reproductive trauma’ may seem slightly vague.
And the way in which we’ll talk about this very sensitive subject is in such a way that it covers any form of loss that involves the process of becoming a parent.
Some examples of reproductive trauma include, but are not limited to:
In other words, reproductive trauma is a spectrum. And everyone who experiences it will have a unique experience that often encompasses grief and feelings of pain.
Reproductive Trauma: A Gateway To Other Forms of Pain
In the realm of reproductive trauma, it is possible for the trauma itself to give way to another form of heartache and pain. One that is not related to their reproductive trauma.
For example, if someone has experienced a miscarriage they could also be dealing with the pain associated with not becoming a parent.
They may have mentally prepared to have a child and/or created a special space in their home for their unborn child—all of which can result in the shattering of a dream. This makes this kind of trauma extremely difficult and complex.
Having said that, there are ways to work through the trauma.
Reproductive Trauma: A Qualitative Study
At the end of 2022 two researchers, Clay and Marjorie Brigance, conducted a study while they were experiencing reproductive trauma first-hand (infertility followed by a complicated pregnancy).
The study was designed as a duoethnography, which is a collaborative research method where the researchers themselves are the test subjects.
In this case the two researchers, who are a couple, used open dialogue as a means to compare and contrast their experience as well as tools such as listening, interrogation, and questioning themselves and their partner.
Throughout the study they documented their trials and tribulations through in-depth conversations and journaling. What they found was that the experience of reproductive trauma is ambiguous, making it hard to actually grieve.
“When a physical death occurs, we have rituals to process this loss. However, there is no ritual with the grief of infertility or early pregnancy loss. We often suffer in silence,” says the research couple.
Their biggest takeaway from their study was that it’s important to talk about it, so that it is no longer a scary secret. That, and how crucial it is to really sit with the feelings without trying to fix them.
“The more we can talk about it, the more we can normalize it,” says the researchers.
The Results: Trauma & Attachment Styles
At the end of the study, the couple had some interesting findings.
They found that their unprocessed trauma led to decreased empathy, which brought about an avoidant-insecure attachment style.
This kind of attachment style is when, instead of craving intimacy, a person will be wary of closeness with another and they will try to avoid emotional connections. Instead, they would rather rely on themselves during their time of pain.
Additionally, they found that when they did process their trauma by having empathetic communication and spiritual connection, their attachment style was more secure couple attachment.
This attachment style is made up of a person appreciating their own self-worth and their ability to be themselves in a relationship. They also actively seek support and comfort from their partner, and are happy for their partner to do the same.
With these results, the researchers were able to summarize their findings into three different ways in which people could overcome reproductive trauma.
3 Ways To Help Overcome Reproductive Trauma
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing reproductive trauma, these three pieces of advice may be helpful:
1. Realizing that you are not alone
As mentioned above, dealing with reproductive trauma can be difficult because it can be ambiguous. It’s hard to accept or work through trauma when you don’t know how to do it, and it can feel extremely isolating.
But, it’s in these times that you should remind yourself that you’re not alone. The more you talk about it, the more solace and grieving you can experience.
For this, it’ll prove invaluable for you to find a community or person(s) who truly understands you and can empathize.
2. Sit with the emotions, don’t try to “fix” them
In the study, it was found that when one partner validated the other’s feelings, it was more effective than trying to “fix” or “solve” them.
“If you want to experience relational closeness, it means sitting with the pain,” says Brigance. “This could come in a comment like, ‘This is just so hard. I see your hurt.’”
3. Don’t let outside opinions get to you or sway how you’re feeling
It’s natural for people to want to give you advice or guidance. But just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t mean that they are true or valid.
If you choose to listen to outside advice, remember that not all of it will be helpful. Everyone is allowed to have thoughts and feelings on parenthood, but it is only you who knows what your trauma feels like.
In times like these, leaning on your partner or a mental health professional may be the best thing to do as you grieve.
If you are going through reproductive trauma, we hope that these tips and information have helped you in some way.
Talking through your pain however, as opposed to trying to fix it, could just be the best way to deal with your grief (and if you have one, become closer to your partner). You are not alone, and your feelings are valid.