Miscarriages and Body Image

I am currently watching Melrose Place on Netflix from the beginning, and there was an episode where Josie Bissett’s character had a miscarriage and how after the miscarriage she immediately wanted to lose the five pounds she gained, but after the loss she felt no better. This got me thinking about miscarriage and its effects on body image. I am certainly no expert on this topic, so I went online to do some research. We hear a lot about women’s post baby body. In fact, I am sick and tired of seeing stories on seeing a celebrities post baby bodies, because there is a lot of pressure on women to lose the pregnancy weight gain in a fast period of time, and know that body image concerns often can appear when bodies change after pregnancy. We just do not often hear nor talk about body image and women who have experienced a miscarriage.

I was looking at some pages from the book: The new Harvard guide to women’s health By Karen J. Carlson, Stephanie A. Eisenstat, Terra Diane Ziporyn and noticed a few paragraphs and quotes on miscarriage and body image.

“Traumatic events associated with reproduction such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or genetic defects can be devastating to a woman’s body image. These events leave some women feeling inadequate in what they consider their most basic biological role. A woman who has had a miscarriage or stillbirth may feel there is something fundamentally wrong with her body because it cannot carry a healthy pregnancy to term or because it produced a nonviable embryo or fetus. The associated problems with self-esteem often lead to sexual dysfunction and other marital difficulties.

Many women in their 30s who have postponed having children discover that they have an infertility problem which precludes their becoming pregnant. Still other women reach their late 30s without finding a partner with whom to have a child. In both of these situations women may begin to develop a negative body image, as they see signs of aging in a body that has not fulfilled its reproductive potential.”

I know women may not want to have children, do not feel it is their most basic biological role, and that is a choice many make, but this post is about women who have been pregnant, and have had a miscarriage or stillbirth or another traumatic event related to pregnancy.

When I first thought of writing this post, I was thinking too small, in relation to only a woman’s body after the miscarriage and her changed body and the desire to lose the weight, or find some way to control a terrible situation in some way she can. I didn’t honestly think about body image in terms of feeling inadequate. I am glad the book addressed sexual dysfuntion as well, because that is commonly tied with body image.

I find this topic is something we need to discuss and open up to dialogues in the body image movement. I sometimes feel the body image movement can sometimes not entirely inclusive, and needs to be broadened to a variety of topics we may not think to consider when we talk body image. I also didn’t consider the body image and aging connection to miscarriages. I didn’t even consider this topic until I watched the episode of Melrose Place. Talk about inspiration from the strangest places.

As I get older, and begin to consider whether or not I want to have children, I feel those quotes from the book really resonated with me.

For many women, pregnancy can either help body image struggles, or exasperate body image struggles. But what about women who have had a miscarriage? I tried to Google for more information on body image and miscarriage and was shocked by the lack of resources or links to help guide me in writing this post.

I did find one blog post called “An upside to miscarriage” where the author talks about being insecure in her 20s and after experiencing three miscarriages, things had changed. This quote stood out to me and was really powerful: “But seeing my body as more than a flabby belly and jiggly arms…is a relief. Sure, it disappointed me by not keeping my babies safe. But it was just doing its job. And as much as I disagree with its choices, I have to admit it’s still pretty amazing. This type of confidence was one I looked forward to finding when I became a mother…and even though there’s no evidence of those children, I still have the admiration for my body I had hoped for.”

I wrote this post with no personal experience, and I was hoping by posting this to

1) create a new dialogue in discussion in the body image community

2) maybe reach someone who had experienced this and could help shed a more personal story to this topic.

I know this post isn’t complete, doesn’t address everything involved, and I normally write from personal experience. When I do not know something, I research it, and when I can’t find research I want to ask my community, and you are my community. I adore all of you readers and would kindly appreciate any info, feedback, or thoughts to share!  I know this is a very sensitive topic, and hope I at least provided a good introduction to a very complex and hard topic.

11 Responses to Miscarriages and Body Image
  1. Anne
    July 18, 2011 | 3:27 pm

    What a fascinating topic. I think part of the dearth of information on body image and miscarriage probably stems from the fact that we as a society are not very good at acknowledging miscarriage/stillbirth to begin with. Miscarriage is incredibly common, and often devastating for women and their partners, but while we band around people who have lost born children, miscarriage usually ends up as a private loss.

    I’ve never been pregnant, but there’s an extensive history of late-term miscarriage in my family, so this is a topic close to my heart.

    • ViR
      July 18, 2011 | 10:08 pm

      Thank you so much Anne for sharing that! I know miscarriage happens, and it is talked about with regards to medical and physical health, but we rarely hear about the mental health side, and body image specifically. I want to thank you for sharing your voice!

  2. Heather
    July 18, 2011 | 7:26 pm

    My husband and I had two losses before we had our daughter, and I do believe that those losses magnified my body image issues, for the very reason you listed. I already had so much hate for my body, and now it couldn’t even do the one thing… that women’s bodies are SUPPOSED to do? I was so sad and so angry. Then I wondered if my ED contributed to the losses in the first place, which (ironically), made my ED behaviors even worse. I have since made peace with my losses, but my fight for my health is far from over. Anyway, thank you for shedding some light on this issue <3

    • Heather
      July 18, 2011 | 7:27 pm

      My full-term pregnancy and post-pregnancy also played a huge role in my struggle with body image and food. I agree that there is not nearly enough information out there on any of these topics.

  3. Melissa @ ...the space between...
    July 18, 2011 | 9:16 pm

    I don’t have anything helpful to contribute, but it’s a really important post, Kendra.

    Thanks for putting it out there and hopefully it generates some dialogue.

    • ViR
      July 18, 2011 | 10:02 pm

      Thank you Melissa 🙂 I am glad you read and commented! I honestly don’t have much either and have already received an email with a personal story. It is a truly important topic indeed.

  4. Julie Parker
    July 18, 2011 | 9:40 pm

    This is a really important topic Kendra and thank you for opening up the dialogue. I have never had a miscarriage myself but the mentioning here of inadequacy based feelings that a woman may have after a miscarriage certainly does make sense beyond the usual desire for weight loss we see so many stories about with women who carry a baby to full term.

    Your post has also reminded me of someone who inspired a post I wrote at Beautiful You some months back about a disabled woman and her experience of body image which was deeply tied to the feelings of inadequacy you mention here because her body did not ‘work’ in the same way other womens bodies did.

    • ViR
      July 18, 2011 | 10:06 pm

      Yes! I think it is so important that when we discuss body image, we continue to bring up topics even where we may not have personal experience, to help give a voice to others. I remember your post well and it was a really great post on something not often talked about. I really was most shocked at the lack of info out there on this! I really had no idea and wish I could have found more.

  5. 'K
    July 21, 2011 | 6:28 pm

    Thanks – I think you were reading my thoughts. A Google search has returned this as one of only a handful of responses about body image after MC – NOT pregnancy – (hey, everyone else: stop sticking me in with all the women who CAN do it). Why should I look after a body this useless? How can it be attractive like this? The irony is that, to cope with the fact that I should now be burgeoning and round but am not, I’m overeating and becoming fat. So I like my body less, despise it more, care for it less…

    ViR, you’ve hit the nail on the head. You have validated what I was beginning to think I was being selfish and self-obsessed for feeling… Perhaps if I’m allowed to acknowledge these feelings, I can deal with them and move on. That helps: thank you.

    • ViR
      July 22, 2011 | 5:10 pm

      Hi K – thank you SO much for sharing this comment! I was struggling with the Google search and shocked! You are not selfish at all, allowing ourselves to 1) be accountable for our feelings 2) feel the feelings completely without shame and 3) try to find ways to work through the struggle. I am so glad this post resonated and reached you so you don’t feel alone!!

  6. lauramich
    July 25, 2011 | 11:44 am

    I’m currently maintaining a “normal” BMI (between 22 and 23) after losing ~140 pounds. I’m also dealing with the aftermath of an infertility diagnosis—prognosis of having bio children dim to nonexistent. And let me say that infertility has done more damage to my “body image” than having a BMI of 44 ever did (or the loose skin folds that I’m left with now).

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