After Chrissy Teigen bravely shared the story of her recent pregnancy loss on Instagram, many took to social media to offer condolences and to thank her for helping to destigmatize speaking about the grief of losing a pregnancy. But some also pointed out an important gap in the way we talk about the topic. Specifically, many on social media highlighted hesitation about the word miscarriage.
"For the record, I think the term 'miscarriage' needs a rethink. It feels like blame. A vessel that didn't do its job properly," wrote Twitter user Garvia Bailey. "Words matter."
Words do matter, especially when talking about someone's health and very personal grieving process. As Twitter user Lesley Messer asked: "Can we please create a new, gentler word to describe pregnancy loss? The term 'miscarriage' is such a misnomer, and the phrase 'loses her baby' is even worse."
According to Harvard Medical School, "the term [miscarriage] is generally used when the loss occurs before 20 weeks of gestation." It's a type of pregnancy loss, not the blanket term it often becomes in pop culture or casual conversations. However, according to Harvard Medical school, "If a pregnancy ends after 20 weeks, it is usually not labeled a miscarriage even though it is a pregnancy loss."
Adding to the confusion around Teigen's case in particular, the medical term for pregnancy loss is "spontaneous abortion," which is different than when a person may choose to intentionally terminate a pregnancy.
For anyone who does experience the loss of a wanted pregnancy, the terminology is an extremely personal decision. Although some people might identify with the term miscarriage depending on their situation, making pregnancy loss the default term allows them to make that choice—and gives them control over their grieving process.
"My miscarriages were 11 years ago, and I vividly remember how they felt like deaths to me but no one ever acknowledged them as such," Twitter user Shinyung Oh shared. "Miscarriage is a terrible term. We do not mis-carry. We suffer a loss."
There's a cultural expectation that pregnant people don't often share the news of their pregnancies until around 13 weeks—because the majority of pregnancy losses occur before 12 weeks. But the expectation of keeping pregnancies private until you're past 13 weeks and into your second trimester suggests that any pregnancy loss that has occurred should also be kept private.
"I've always thought not to tell someone you're pregnant until you're out of the 'red zone' but never thought why we're brought up to think that?" another user who goes by Tess on the platform tweeted. "It's almost like having a miscarriage is 'dirty' and shouldn't be talked about."
And other commenters pointed out other words with similar connotations: geriatric pregnancy, ovarian failure, incompetent cervix, and more.
"So much of this terminology is so bad… It's almost as if it comes from someone who thinks women should be taking the blame for things that are out of our control," Bailey wrote on Twitter.
So maybe it's time to take control over that language, just like Teigen bravely broke through taboo by publically taking about her pregnancy loss. October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, a good time to choose to use compassionate language around pregnancy in general and support those who may be grieving in whatever way is right for them.