Family Physicians’ Forum Pregnancy Loss, A Grief Unspoken -- By: William R. Cutrer
JFM 2:2 (Spring/Summer 2012) p. 58
Family Physicians’ Forum
Pregnancy Loss, A Grief Unspoken
William Cutrer (M.D., University of Kentucky) is the C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Ministry and Director of the Gheens Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Cutrer has authored or co-authored several publications including The Church Leader’s Handbook: A Guide to Counseling Families and Individuals in Crisis.
“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior,” the psalmist sang, “so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them (127:4-5). When the wonderful news of pregnancy is announced, we rightly rejoice! But what about those who go on to miscarry, to experience fetal demise or tubal pregnancy, or who are infertile ? How can we minister to those suffering such profound pain? As a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, I have spent much of my life and ministry involved with young couples and families. This article will address several all-too-common situations to aid the caregivers and ministers who serve these couples. First, I will provide the medical information from the patients’ perspective, then I will offer a few practical ministry suggestions.
Miscarriage, known in medicine as “spontaneous abortion,” refers to pregnancy loss before approximately twenty weeks’ gestation. Statistics suggest that annually almost one-third of the approximately six million pregnancies in the U.S. result in loss. Perhaps 600,000 of these represent miscarriage, and another 64,000, ectopic pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester (twelve weeks of pregnancy), counted from the last menstrual period. Enhanced testing suggests that as many as half of all pregnancies fail to result in a live birth. God has blessed humanity with the privilege of being fruitful and multiplying, yet the process often becomes the source of intense pain.
Miscarriage: Patients’ Perspective
The excitement of the positive home test can quickly turn to fear at the first evidence of spotting or cramping. The fact that almost half of all pregnant women experience such complications makes the first trimester an anxious time for new mothers. Advances in ultrasound technology grant visual access into the womb whereby diagnoses of developing pregnancy can be made, yet waiting on an appointment can seem like an eternity for a couple when the baby’s future seems in doubt. Sonography can detect the baby’s “gestational sac” as early as three-and-a-half weeks from conception but until the fetal pole with its recognizable yolk sac and heart beat can be detected, only baseline information can be stated with certainty. Yes, a pregnancy has begun, and it is located within the uterus, but unt...
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