21. Men matter in miscarriage

On the evening of July 24th 2016, I was in the delivery suite of St James’s Hospital, Leeds, witnessing the birth of my daughter, Alba Rose Burton. Coincidentally, that same evening I featured in a (pre-recorded!) documentary on BBC Radio 5 Live which investigated the challenges that families face when trying to start a family.

That evening sums up my experience of having children. The extreme lows of molar pregnancy and miscarriage, juxtaposed with the indescribable highs of becoming a parent.

Despite having experienced six pregnancies over the last five years, our 33.3% success rate makes me and my wife extremely fortunate. We have two wonderful children. The success rate is far lower for many families. For some it is 0%. Some struggle to remain pregnant; some struggle to get pregnant. Whatever the circumstances, starting a family isn’t always the fairy-tale that we expect.

I participated in that documentary for two reasons. Firstly, my experience of miscarriage has driven a desire to break the taboo surrounding baby loss. Reluctance throughout society to discuss or contemplate miscarriage leads to heartache, isolation, and a population poorly educated on the associated risks, impacts and emotions. Secondly, my personal crusade is to bring to the fore the male perspective, and I thank BBC 5 Live for providing a platform for the ‘male-voice’.

Women don’t suffer miscarriages alone. Families suffer miscarriages together.

And, for that matter, women don’t suffer stillbirth or infertility alone. Men matter too.

My blog post last year details and describes the confusing vulnerability felt by men when their family loses a pregnancy. Doing things alone. Feeling isolated. Acting differently to how you feel. Hiding emotions. Experiencing helplessness.

It’s pleasing to see issues surrounding miscarriage being brought into the public eye by men. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that he and wife Priscilla had suffered three miscarriages. This year, Gordon Ramsay shared the awful news that he and wife Tana had lost their latest pregnancy at five months.

Yet, despite the occasional high-profile male voice, what little discussion there is surrounding baby loss is still too strongly weighted towards this being a thing suffered by women. This was underlined once again in my mind recently, via the case of Scottish politician Nicola Sturgeon.

In early September 2016, Sturgeon opened up about her family’s miscarriage, which occurred in 2011 (the same year as our first miscarriage). The story received much media attention, but almost all of this coverage discussed Sturgeon herself and ‘the challenges that women face’. The Sunday Times published a list of ‘childless politicians’ alongside the story, which neglected to feature any men. This sort of oversight only serves to support the idea that that the hardships of procreating are a ‘woman thing’.

I happened to catch a segment of the Andrew Marr show on the date that the Sturgeon story hit the headlines. Whilst reviewing the newspapers, one media commentator on the show said “this is, unfortunately, something that many women go through”.

Wrong. Women don’t suffer miscarriages alone. Families suffer miscarriages together.

For the record, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband is called Peter Murrell. I offer my sympathies to both of them, and hope that they were able to support each other through baby loss.

The world is changing, and the taboo continues to break. But we must increase the speed of change. We must talk about miscarriage, stillbirth and infertility. And we must fund support services designed to help couples in need and invest in much needed research into recurrent miscarriage.

On October 9th 2016, I’ll be running the Yorkshire 10 Mile race. The race coincides with the annual Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9th – 15th), which culminates in Baby Loss Awareness Day (October 15th).

If you’d like to sponsor me, and contribute towards our ongoing fundraising for research into recurrent miscarriage and molar pregnancy, you can do so here https://www.justgiving.com/teams/KayleighandMatt. You can also sponsor me by texting KMBU66 £5 to 70070.

Women don’t suffer miscarriages alone. Families suffer miscarriages together.

Help us to #BreakTheTaboo

Matt Burton, September 2016