LOS ANGELES (NEXSTAR) — Chrissy Teigen and John Legend have shared the heartbreaking announcement on social media that they lost their newborn baby following pregnancy complications.
Teigen’s post, an emotional message and series of pictures, was met with criticism from some social media users who said such a private moment shouldn’t be publicly shared.
But just as Teigen has done throughout her career, the model and mother of two is shedding light and sparking conversation on a subject people don’t talk about enough. And according to the world’s top health experts, infant loss falls into that category.
The World Health Organization notes millions of babies are lost during pregnancy and feelings of “stigma, shame and guilt” often emerge for affected women.
While the loss of a baby isn’t a much-talked about topic, it’s far more common than many think. The March of Dimes estimates 10-15% of pregnancies results in a miscarriage and more than 2.5 billion babies are stillborn each year.
Dr. Princess Nothemba Simelela, The WHO’s assistant director-general for family, women, children and adolescents, wrote a piece for the organization’s website titled, “Why we need to talk about losing a baby.” In the article, she notes “the unacceptable stigma and shame women face after baby loss must end.”
“Women who lose their babies are made to feel that should stay silent about their grief, either because miscarriage and stillbirth are still so common, or because they are perceived to be unavoidable,” write Dr. Simelela.
Dr. Simelela goes on to note many women who lose a baby in pregnancy develop mental health issues that can last for months or years. She says it’s important to give women space to talk about how they feel – and for those around them to provide empathy and support.
In 2018, the WHO highlighted the story of James and Kimberly Van Der Beek, who shared their story about baby loss on social media. James, who starred in the television show Dawson’s Creek, posted about the multiple miscarriages his family suffered in hopes of bringing awareness to infant loss.
“The stigma and trauma result in a lack of conversation about miscarriages and people are often left feeling alone, confused, and worst of all – to blame,” said Kimberly in a conversation with the WHO. “I don’t know how to help other than share my story in hopes that it spreads compassion, awareness and an evolution in the way we care for miscarriages and stillbirths.”
In Teigen and Legend’s case, their announcement is already prompting people to share their stories on losing a baby.
“You are very courageous to share this,” wrote social media user Jae-Ha Kim. “I lost my baby at 18 weeks and no one wanted to hear me talk about it. Thank you for giving a voice to all of us who have been there and are still grieving.”
“I am so sorry – we need to talk about this,” wrote Kate Wheeler. “It happens to more women than people realize. I had 4 miscarriages before my 2 daughters. I know the loss is large. Your pain is shared. Your grief is recognized.”
Dr. Simelela offers thoughts for anyone who might be in a position to offer support to a woman grieving the loss of a baby — including what not to say. You can read her advice here.