- Chrissy Teigen suffered a pregnancy loss about halfway through her pregnancy after being hospitalized for extreme bleeding related to a weak placenta.
- Miscarriage, which occurs before 20 weeks gestation, and stillbirth, which occurs after that, are common, affecting up to 1 in 5 and 1 in 160 pregnancies, respectively.
- Half of miscarriages are caused by genetic abnormalities, but less is known about the causes of stillbirth, though some factors out of a woman’s control are associated with a higher risk.
- Professionals and women’s who’ve experienced pregnancy losses are applauding Teigen’s openness, saying it fights the stigma and helps them feel less alone.
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend are “shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about” after their pregnancy loss, the model and entrepreneur wrote on Instagram and Twitter Wednesday night.
Teigen, 34, who’d been about halfway through her pregnancy with the couple’s third child, was put on bed rest in early September and then hospitalized earlier this week for severe bleeding related to a weak placenta.
“Bags and bags” of blood transfusions “just [weren’t] enough” to save the pregnancy, she wrote. They had undergone IVF to conceive their first children, Luna, 4, and Miles, 2, and had called their son-to-be Jack.
“We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience. But everyday can’t be full of sunshine,” she wrote. “On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out.”
Pregnancy loss is common, particularly in early pregnancy, but still carries a stigma and leaves many women feeling alone for a long time. That’s why fans and health professionals are praising Teigen’s candor.
“Chrissy’s openness helps to shed this stigma and advance conversations about the topic, and help people realize that in the vast majority of cases, there is nothing that anybody did or didn’t do that could prevent this devastating event,” Dr. Lilli Dash Zimmerman, a fertility specialist at Columbia University Fertility Center who wasn’t involved in Teigen’s care, told Insider.
Miscarriage is more common than stillbirth
Pregnancy loss is common, with 10% to 20% of pregnancies ending in miscarriage, or a loss before 20 weeks gestation. It’s likely even more common, occurring in some women before they even realize they’re pregnant.
Stillbirth, or a pregnancy loss that happens after 20 weeks, is less common, affecting about 1 in 160 pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that still makes it one of the most common negative pregnancy outcomes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports.
It’s unclear exactly how far along Teigen was, but she said in one post this week she was about halfway through the pregnancy, which is about the 20- to 24-week point. Babies born befor 24 weeks have a very low chance of survival; once they reach 24 weeks, their chances rise above 50%.
“I’m in that weird in-between time of it being really dangerous to try anything,” Teigen said in her Instagram stories on Sunday. “Basically if I can make it through the next few weeks, if little boy can make it through the next few weeks, then you know, we can go from there and be able to get through the danger zone or whatever. But we have to get through this first.”
Many factors out of a woman’s control can raise the risk of a pregnancy loss
Women often feel responsible for a miscarriage or stillbirth, but in the vast majority of cases, the losses are out of their control. About half of miscarriages happen because of random abnormalities in an embryo.
Less is known about the causes of stillbirth, in part because they’re not consistently evaluated and tracked across hospitals and clinics.
“A significant proportion of stillbirths remains unexplained even after a thorough evaluation,” ACOG says, though certain factors, including being Black, having other children, and carrying a male fetus, are associated with a higher risk.
Having obesity, diabetes, chronic hypertension, and using assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant are also linked to a higher likelihood of stillbirth.
For both miscarriage and stillbirth, smoking, drinking, or using drugs in pregnancy can increase the risk of a loss. Women over 35 are more susceptible, too.
In Teigen’s case, her “weak” placenta, or what she called Jack’s “home,” likely contributed to the loss. The placenta is the organ that delivers oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and removes waste.
“If the placenta is … unable to provide the nutrients necessary for the baby, there is no ability to maintain the pregnancy,” Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN at Baylor University Medical Center who was not involved in Teigen’s care, told Insider.
A pregnancy loss increases the risk of depression and anxiety, the grief can be long-lasting
Physically recovering from a loss as far along as Teigen’s can be similar to recovering from childbirth, lasting four to six weeks, Zimmerman said.
Teigen’s recovery will also have to account for the fact that she lost so much blood, raising the risk of anemia.
While the body can heal, for many women, the mental and emotional impact is long-lasting, whether their loss occurred before anyone even knew they were pregnant or, like in Teigen’s case, they were visibly pregnant with a name already chosen.
One study found 20% of women who experience a miscarriage have the symptoms of anxiety or depression, and for most, those symptoms last one to three years, affecting their quality of life and future pregnancies.
“Grief is experienced as a long-term process, which frequently emerges fully after leaving the hospital and lasts well beyond the interest and stamina of supportive family members and friends,” Shepherd said, adding that support groups can help.
Health professionals and fans of Teigen are applauding her for being so open about her heartbreak, saying it helps break down the stigma of miscarriage and allows other women with similar experiences to be seen.
—JESS (@TheLegacyOfLeo) October 1, 2020
“The important part to remember is that mourning is not just feeling sad, it is the psychological process by which human beings become able to give up some of the feelings they have invested in a person who no longer exists,” Shepherd said, “and extend their love to the living.”