Earlier this week, Janie Faville, a 27-year-old from Missouri, took to the internet to share the financial burden of her miscarriage.
Faville paid over $1,000 out of her own pocket after losing her pregnancy, and her post draws attention to how costly important procedures can be for many women.
March of Dimes reports that miscarriages happen in almost 15% of known pregnancies, though that statistic leaves out women who miscarry before they knew they were pregnant at all. Miscarriages happen when, according to pregnancy guide What To Expect, “an embryo is expelled from the uterus before it can survive outside.”
Physically, pregnant women who experience miscarriages usually notice vaginal bleeding, spotting, and cramping — all signs that something might not be right. When a woman miscarries, the fetal tissue in her uterus has to leave her body. In many cases, called “complete miscarriages,” the tissue is expelled on its own and nothing remains in the uterus. Some women, though, experience what are known as “incomplete miscarriages.” In those instances, some fetal tissue remains in the uterus and might need to be removed by a medical professional.
In some cases, women miscarry without any bleeding or painful symptoms. After the fetus has died, they continue to carry it without their body signaling them with warning signs or discomfort. Often, these women, who experience what’s called a “missed miscarriage,” don’t know until they go to the doctor for their next regularly scheduled check-up. Unless a sonogram indicates there’s no longer a heartbeat, most women who endure a missed miscarriage don’t have any reason to suspect something is wrong.
When a woman is told she has had a “missed miscarriage,” she may choose to let the fetal tissue leave her body on its own or to undergo dilation and curettage, a procedure we know as a “D&C.” The American Pregnancy Association reports that roughly 50% of women choose to let their bodies complete a miscarriage naturally, preferring to do so in the comfort of their own homes and without medical intervention. Waiting for your body to expel a pregnancy naturally does pose infection risk and involves letting the uterine contents and fetal tissue bleed out. During a D&C, a medical professional manually dilates the cervix and scrapes out the contents of the uterus. After a D&C, a patient waits for her uterine lining to reform and for her cervix to go back to its original size. Ultimately, women are encouraged to choose, under the guidance of their medical professional, the treatment option they feel most comfortable with.
Faville’s miscarriage was “missed” and she chose to be treated with a D&C. She wrote about her experience in a post in the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group earlier last week, where she included an image of the bill she received for the procedure. In its entirety, the visit and procedure cost $5,584.00 With her insurance, which she describes as a good plan, Faville owed upwards of $1,000 out of pocket.
According to Slate, a D&C can run a woman who does not have insurance anywhere from $4,000 to $9,000. Those with insurance can pay up to $1,200 for the procedure.
Faville wrote that the cost of her procedure “was the last thing on [her] mind 4 weeks ago as [she] struggled to come to terms with losing [her] baby.”
She continued, “Luckily, cost didn’t prohibit me from being able to choose how best to proceed for my mind, body, and soul.”
Recognizing that “not everyone has [the] luxury [to choose],” Faville used her experience to speak out about the importance of Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act, and movements that are working to support affordable access to reproductive healthcare. “This is why we march,” she concluded.
When a woman miscarries, she and her partner often experience the stages of grief as they mourn the early loss of a pregnancy. Planned Parenthood reminds couples who miscarry that they can expect “a mix of emotions…disappointment, despair, shock, guilt, grief, and relief,” and advises that women who miscarry “give [themselves] permission to grieve this loss.”
According to the American Psychology Association, several studies conducted in the last few years have proven that the effects of a miscarriage can be significant and long-lasting — even more so than the medical community originally thought.
As quoted in an APA article, reproductive psychologist Dr. Janet Jaffe explained that, “because it is medically common, the [psychological] impact of miscarriage is often underestimated.”
Miscarriage, she goes on to explain, leaves women grieving not only the loss of a life, but also the loss of her narrative as a child-bearing woman; she has lost a baby and her sense of ownership over what Jaffe refers to as her “reproductive story.” Her ideas about pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood, and the way she saw her life playing out, are shaken up by trauma. She is emotionally rocked, and that, too, takes time to recover from.
Any woman’s experience with a miscarriage serves as a reminder that the physical and emotional effects of a miscarriage are not the only thing women face in such a difficult moment. There is a literal financial cost and, as women grieve and recover, there are serious bills to pay. Her post sheds light on yet another way women who have fewer resources at their disposal can be forced to suffer when it comes to their mental and physical health. No woman in a time of need should be turned away or have her options limited because she can’t afford to make the best choice for her body and mind. Women, whatever they face, deserve — and need — to have clean, safe, affordable options that place their care in their hands.