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Prince Harry believes stress of tabloid lawsuit contributed to Meghan’s miscarriage: What to know about stress and pregnancy loss

(NEW YORK) — Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, open up in the final episode of their Netflix docuseries about their pregnancy loss, which they say happened in July 2020, as they settled into their new home in California.

“I was pregnant,” Meghan says in the six-part series, titled “Harry & Meghan.” “I really wasn’t sleeping and the first morning that we woke up in our new home is when I miscarried.”

At the time of the miscarriage, Meghan and Harry were embroiled in a lawsuit against a U.K. tabloid publisher over the publication of a handwritten letter Meghan sent in 2018 to her estranged father, Thomas Markle.

Harry says in the docuseries that he believes the stress of the lawsuit contributed to Meghan’s miscarriage.

“I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what the Mail did,” Harry said, referring to the U.K. tabloid that first published the letter. “I watched the whole thing.”

He continued, “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 miscarriage was created by what they were trying to do to her.”

Home footage aired in the episode shows Meghan writing on her laptop and poring over documents related to the case.

Harry and Meghan’s lawyer, Jenny Afia, identified onscreen as a partner at Schillings, a London-based law firm, says she also saw the stress Meghan was under.

“Meghan and I would be texting at 1 a.m. or 3 a.m., her time. She’d be awake, unable to sleep thinking about this case and the wider issues and the toll it was taking,” she said. “I knew the stress the latest development was having on Meghan, and that was that the Mail were going to argue that Meghan’s friends had already spoken about the letter to People magazine, and that Meghan had authorized that article, which she hadn’t.”

Meghan’s friend and former “Suits” co-star Abigail Spencer says she was coming to help Meghan unpack her new home when she saw her fall to the ground.

“I’m driving up just like, ‘Alright, we’re going to unpack. We’re going to get settled,’ and Meg is standing outside waiting for me and I can tell something is off,” Spencer said. “She’s like, ‘I’m having a lot of pain.’ She was holding Archie and she just fell to the ground.”

Meghan herself described the experience in a New York Times opinion piece about pregnancy loss, which was published in November 2020.

“I felt a sharp cramp. I dropped to the floor…I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second,” she wrote. “Hours later, I lay in a hospital bed, holding my husband’s hand. I felt the clamminess of his palm and kissed his knuckles, wet from both our tears. Staring at the cold white walls, my eyes glazed over. I tried to imagine how we’d heal.”

It is not known how many weeks Meghan was into her pregnancy when the loss occurred.

Meghan and Harry were the parents of a son, Archie, at the time of the miscarriage. They went onto have another child, a daughter they named Lili, in June 2021.

Later in the docuseries, Meghan describes the length of her court battle against the tabloid publisher, saying, “When all of this started, I had no children. And now I have birthed two and lost one and it’s still going on.”

A U.K. judge ruled in Meghan’s favor in the case last year.

What to know about early miscarriage and stress

Early pregnancy loss, or miscarriage, occurs during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, known as the first trimester. Statistics can vary, but it happens in at least 10% of known pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

That number is likely considerably higher, as many women miscarry before they realize that they’re expecting. Additionally, one recent study indicated that 43% of women who had at least one successful birth reported having had one or more first trimester losses.

As many as half of early miscarriages happen when the embryo does not develop properly, often because it has an abnormal number of chromosomes, which is a result of an egg or sperm that fertilized with fewer chromosomes than normal, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The group says miscarriage is usually a “random event,” and not the result of external factors, such as stress.

“Working, exercising, stress, arguments, having sex, or having used birth control pills before getting pregnant do not cause miscarriage. Few medications can cause miscarriage,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states on its website. “Morning sickness — the nausea and vomiting that is common in early pregnancy — also does not cause miscarriage.”

The group notes that “some women who have had a miscarriage believe that it was caused by a recent fall, blow, fright, or stress,” but “in most cases, this is not true. It may simply be that these things happened to occur around the same time and are fresh in the memory.”

One factor that can impact pregnancy loss is age, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The frequency of early pregnancy loss doubles for women between 35 and 40 years old from 20% to 40%.

“Most end because of a chromosome abnormality,” the group states. “There also is some evidence that chromosome abnormalities in the embryo increase as men get older. But it is not clear at what age this begins for men.”

Meghan, now 41, was 37-years-old when she announced her pregnancy with Archie, and 39-years-old when she announced her pregnancy with Lili.

Other potential risk factors for miscarriages include having had two or more previous miscarriages, having problems with the uterus and cervix, including fibroids and scars, and infections like sexually transmitted infections, according to the March of Dimes.

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