In one of the explosive claims Prince Harry and Meghan Markle make in the final three episodes of their Netflix docuseries, Harry says she suffered a miscarriage in July 2020 due to stress from her protracted legal battle against the company that publishes the Daily Mail.
“I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what the Mail did,” Harry said in the sixth and final episode of “Harry and Meghan,” which began streaming early Thursday.
Harry admitted he could not substantiate his claim about the tabloid causing his wife to lose her second pregnancy. Still, he gives voice to what experts in reproductive health say is “a common misperception” about the causes of miscarriage — that stress can cause women to lose their pregnancies.
“I watched the whole thing,” the Duke of Sussex said. “Now do we absolutely know that the miscarriage was caused by that? Of course we don’t. But bearing in mind the stress that that caused, the lack of sleep and the timing of the pregnancy, how many weeks in she was, I can say from what I saw that that miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her.”
There’s little doubt that Meghan and Harry were dealing with a lot in the first half of 2020: They had been involved in a volatile exit from royal life, fled to California at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, holed up in Tyler Perry’s Los Angeles mansion to escape the paparazzi and were scrambling to find ways to make money.
As the docuseries shows, Meghan also was immersed in her nasty court battle with Associated Newspapers over the Daily Mail’s publication of a letter she wrote to her father Thomas Markle. The U.S.-born duchess was being pressed by Associated Newspapers to disclose private information, including the names of friends who had defended her in anonymous interviews with People. Meghan eventually won her privacy battle with Associated, arguing that the Mail had no right to publish the letter she wrote to her father.
“I was pregnant, I really wasn’t sleeping and the first morning that we woke up in our new home is when I miscarried,” Meghan said.
While Meghan has previously talked about the stress the Daily Mail case caused her at the time of the miscarriage, this is the first time she and Harry have tried to directly link the events, the Telegraph reported.
That they’re making this link is certain to be controversial. The Daily Mail won’t be happy, but they — and Netflix — also could be accused of fueling confusion and misinformation about miscarriage to the millions of people expected to watch the series.
UK’s National Health Services (NHS) said it’s “a common misperception” that a mother’s emotional state, including anxiety or depression, is tied to an increased risk of miscarriage, which is generally described as the death of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. This misperception is in the same category as fears that a woman can harm her fetus by exercising, lifting something heavy, having sex, eating spicy food, standing or sitting long hours at work or experiencing a shock or fright, according to the NHS.
Healthline reported that NHS is one of several major medical organizations, along with the World Health Organization, the March of Dimes and the National Institute of Child Health and Development, that “do not consider stress a direct cause of miscarriages.”
Both the March of Dimes and the Mayo Clinic also state: “While excessive stress isn’t good for a mother’s overall health, there’s no evidence that stress results in miscarriage.”
Up to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, these organizations say, though the actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur before the pregnancy is recognized.
“Most miscarriages are not preventable,” Healthline said. Usually, a woman gets no early warning signs and once a miscarriage starts, it’s unlikely that medical intervention can stop it, Healthline added.
Often, miscarriages are caused by a chromosomal abnormality that interferes with the normal development of the embryo. Healthline reported that about half of all miscarriages result from chromosomal abnormalities.
Medical issues such as uterine fibroids or cervical insufficiency, and exposure to alcohol, tobacco, drugs and environmental toxins also can be factors in miscarriage, Healthline said. It’s also well-known that the risk of miscarriage increases after the age of 35: Meghan was 38 when hers occurred.
Healthline reported on several studies that looked at possible links between stress and increased risk of miscarriage. One theorized that stress could affect hormones important to pregnancy, while others suggested that stress could cause increased blood pressure or lead women to pay less attention to their physical health, both of which could threaten the pregnancy or the fetus’ development.
“Still most doctors and researchers agree that stress alone likely doesn’t cause a miscarriage directly,” Healthline reported, while saying that one 2017 review of research suggested that other factors are more likely to cause miscarriage but that the issue needs further study.
Meghan previously opened up about her miscarriage in a 2020 essay for the New York Times and was lauded for describing the grief that women endure over a loss that is often a taboo subject. The essay, “The Losses We Share,” came with the tag line: “Perhaps the path to healing begins with three simple words: Are you OK?”
In the Netflix documentary, Abigail Spencer, Meghan’s friend and her co-star on “Suits,” dramatically described the moment the duchess realized she was miscarrying. She was visiting the couple at their new Montecito home. “Meg is standing outside, waiting for me,” Spencer said, “and I can tell something’s off, and she is showing me the new home (but) she’s like, ‘I’m having a lot of pain’. She was holding Archie and she just fell to the ground and… .”
As Meghan and Harry described her emotional turmoil at the the time, the World Health Organization agreed that it’s important for a woman to manage stress while pregnant — just as it’s important to eat healthfully, exercise and avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
But the WHO also cautioned against putting too much emphasis on lifestyle factors when it comes to preventing miscarriage. When a miscarriage occurs, “in the absence of specific answers,” this emphasis could lead to women feeling guilty that they caused their miscarriage.”
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