Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

The impact of losing a baby on the relationship with a partner

Losing a baby between 20 and 24 weeks of pregnancy had a big impact on relationships, in particular with a partner. Many parents we spoke to found that they grieved in different ways and that this led to difficulties in their relationship. 

Grieving differently

Often mothers we spoke to felt their grief was instant. They wanted to talk more about the loss of their baby than their partner who often didn’t speak about their loss. Some women felt this meant fathers had got over their loss more quickly or that their grief was delayed, but it was often just that fathers expressed their grief in different ways. As we spoke to more mothers than fathers, here we report more about what women said about their partner rather than what their partner said themselves. Vikki felt her partner dealt with her daughter’s death “a lot quicker, I think, than I did. But I think men - obviously, they deal with it completely differently anyway.” Some mothers reported that their partners used alcohol as a way of coping with their loss.
Helen Z described how she grieved with her partner, crying together and sharing the pain but “that I think with all pregnancies, men aren't as attached… they go to work, and they're not - you're with that baby in your stomach, 24/7.”
Parents said that they found their different approaches to grieving came as a surprise and were extremely upsetting. Lisa described it as one of the hardest things to cope with and made her feel isolated at this difficult time. Parents described how sometimes they grieved together and at other times they felt very apart.
Improving communication

Parents were aware of the impact stressful life events can have on relationships. Sarah described how it was “one of the most important things for us, to make sure that we stayed close during our grieving, that it was something we did together.” Joelle and Adam were “very aware that… the statistics of marriages not working, were quite high.” Sadly for some couples losing their baby had such a profound impact on their relationship that they split up.
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Some talked about how they had tried to improve communication with their partner and understand each other’s feelings. Many parents found talking to other parents with similar experiences helpful. Emily and Mike made their regular counselling session into a “’date night’ to make it a bit lighter because it could be quite emotional.”

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