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By Elizabeth Chuck
Celebrity Hilaria Baldwin appeared on the “Today” show Tuesday morning to discuss intensely personal news: a miscarriage she was experiencing.
Baldwin said she was sharing what she was going through to remove the stigma around miscarriages — a move experts say could help others feel less alone and also bring much-needed attention to the different ways women grieve after the loss of a pregnancy.
“It’s heroic,” said Dr. Christine C. Greves, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think that other women and even men may find solace in the fact that they’re not alone if they have to go through something similar.”
Miscarriages — which happen in as many as 15 percent of pregnancies — aren’t something that women “talk about when we’re out with our friends, necessarily,” Greves said. Many women incorrectly blame themselves for pregnancy loss, believing they could have done something to prevent it, she added.
Baldwin, who has four children with her actor husband Alec Baldwin, spoke in an unwavering voice on “Today” about why she was speaking publicly about what she was going through.
“It’s something so many people deal with, and as women we’re trained to deal with it silently,” said Baldwin, who had been told last week that she was having a possible miscarriage, which was confirmed in a follow-up ultrasound on Tuesday afternoon after her “Today” appearance. “I don’t think we have to live with such fear.”
Grief during and after a miscarriage looks different for every person, said Julianne Zweifel, a clinical health psychologist and adjunct professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin.
In whatever way a woman grieves, “acknowledging your emotions is helpful,” she said. “Trying to push them out of your mind and burying them is not a long-term strategy.”
Zweifel called Baldwin’s openness “extraordinary,” but said not everyone will want to talk publicly or even with family and friends about their loss. Some women keep early pregnancies and pregnancy loss to themselves because they want to protect others from pain — their parents, for example, Zweifel said.
She added that it is OK not to tell others about the loss, as long as women are not keeping it secret because they are held back by feelings of shame or embarrassment. She said some women find solace in holding a small ceremony with their partner, like lighting a candle, to honor the lost child.
“I think women often feel like they owe that to their lost child, like, ‘I love you, you counted,'” she said.
Grief after a miscarriage doesn’t follow a timeline, said Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles-based psychologist specializing in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health. She runs an Instagram account featuring women who have had pregnancy losses as a way to normalize the conversation around miscarriage.
“There isn’t necessarily a beginning, middle and end to it,” Zucker said of the grief following such a loss. Women who have had miscarriages need to “be as gentle with themselves through the process as possible,” she added.
“It’s scary and mysterious to have something go awry in your own body.”
Baldwin, a yoga instructor, first shared in an Instagram post last week that a scan had revealed that the embryo had a weak heartbeat, an indication that the pregnancy was likely not viable, according to her doctor.
On Tuesday evening, she posted an update on Instagram that said that the latest scan showed no heartbeat at all.
“Thank you all for listening, for your support, and for sharing your own personal stories. We are stronger together,” she wrote in confirming the miscarriage. “I hope this conversation continues to grow and that we stick together through both the beautiful and challenging moments in life.”
Baldwin’s original post garnered an overwhelming number of comments, most of them positive. Many women shared their losses: “I had 15 miscarriages over the course of 14 years before I had our beautiful and wonderful son 9.5 years ago. It is so hard regardless of circumstance. You are inspiring and show that life isn’t always perfect even when it may ‘appear’ that it is,” one wrote.
But others criticized her. “As a barren woman, this post is incredibly self serving and frankly offensive. You should be grateful, not looking for attention. Shame on you,” one commenter wrote.
Zucker, who experienced a miscarriage 16 weeks into a pregnancy herself, commended Baldwin for speaking out.
“It’s scary and mysterious to have something go awry in your own body,” she said. “Because there isn’t a precedent for a public, ongoing conversation about it, people feel like an anomaly — when they’re, of course, not.”