Nobody Should Have To Endure Three Miscarriages Before Getting Support
It’s one of the most devastating things a person can go through, and yet it is all too often brushed under the carpet, those still suffering expected to head back out into the world and carry on as normal.
It’s estimated that one in five women will have a miscarriage over the course of their lifetime, with researchers calculating around 23 million miscarriages occur every year worldwide.
It’s highly likely you will love somebody who has experienced this sort of loss; a friend, partner or family member who has struggled on with a broken heart, continuing to work, parent and do the shopping while dealing with intense, and possibly secret, emotional pain.
Like so many of the terrible things we as human beings have to endure, knowing that so many others are affected doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to bear, and those who suffer miscarriages should automatically be given the very best support possible.
Sadly, all too often, this isn’t the case, as outlined in a new series of three papers published in the medical journal The Lancet.
In these papers, authors Siobhan Quenby, Arri Coomarasamy and their colleagues call upon the British government to reassess the current narrative around miscarriage, pushing for a ‘comprehensive overhaul of medical care and advice’.
The findings make for harrowing reading, with the underestimated impact of miscarriages found to have led to ‘an attitude of acceptance of miscarriage’ with a ‘system of care which is currently fragmented and can be of poor quality’.
Speaking movingly about her own experiences of miscarriage, MP Olivia Blake recently made a deeply personal plea for change before the House of Commons, highlighting the human stories behind the figures.
Blake, who miscarried last year, addressed her fellow MPs about what she described as an ‘isolating experience’, during which she was not offered adequate support:
The loss associated with miscarriage can often be minimised with phrases like ‘it’s okay you can just try again’ or ‘it just wasn’t meant to be this time’.
After my miscarriage, I got into a cycle of blaming myself and obsessing over what went wrong; if I ate the wrong thing, lifted something too heavy and so many other ridiculous thoughts.
I have had to have counselling to deal with my trauma, but it was not offered, it was something that I had to seek out myself.
In her speech, Blake praised high profile women such as Myleene Klass and Meghan Markle for opening up about their miscarriages, their stories helping other women to open up in turn.
Sadly, there is still too much silence surrounding miscarriage, an experience which can have a profound – and all too often underdiscussed – impact on a person’s mental health.
Research published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (AJOG) found one in six women suffered long-term post-traumatic stress following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy one month after their pregnancy loss.
A further one in four (24%) suffered moderate to severe anxiety, while one in ten (11%) experienced moderate to severe depression. Nine months on from their pregnancy loss, 18% of women had post-traumatic stress, 17% had moderate to severe anxiety, and 6% reported moderate to severe depression.
Of course, this loss can also have profound effects for the partners of those who miscarry, according to research by Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, with one in 12 partners suffering from post-traumatic stress.
One of the most devastating points highlighted in The Lancet papers is that, in the UK, specialist care and support is currently only offered once a woman has suffered through three consecutive miscarriages. This is true even for those known to have a higher risk of miscarriage.
Pregnancy and baby loss charity Tommy’s is now petitioning the UK government to amend the current support on offer, pushing to ensure suitable care is provided after every miscarriage.
The petition, which has gained more than 170,000 signatures at the time of writing, has described the current ‘rule of three’ as being ‘unacceptable’, calling upon the government to implement changes.
Petition organisers quite rightly argue that appropriate mental health care should be made available for women and their partners long before they reach the three miscarriage point, and that mothers should be given information and advice.
The petition also calls for the end of the ‘Postcode Lottery’, asking the government to standardise tests and treatments across the UK, and to improve support for higher risk women right from the start of their pregnancies.
From the number of signatures this petition has garnered, it’s clear there are many people who deeply long to see changes in this area, changes which could make all the difference for those grieving baby loss.
UNILAD spoke with 42-year-old Rachel Michaelson, who feels ‘very strongly about the rule of three being abolished’. Like many women, Rachel has suffered multiple miscarriages and, when asked how many children she has, will always say she’s a mother of seven.
Her first pregnancy, with son Destin, sadly ended with a medical termination after it became apparent that he would not survive beyond his birth.
Rachel’s second pregnancy resulted in her ‘beautiful little girl Ash’, now a 21-year-old woman, but tragically there was more heartache to come. Two further miscarriages followed, Ronin at eight weeks and Ylva at seven weeks.
Rachel then became pregnant with twins, although she didn’t know at the time:
We lost Jarreth at five weeks gestation and found out I was pregnant with Taryn who is now 18. Finally our last little girl Asta was lost at eight weeks gestation.
There was never any sort of investigation into why Rachel miscarried her babies and, after pressing to find out herself, she eventually discovered she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal condition that can increase the likelihood of a woman miscarrying.
After exhibiting ‘several marker symptoms’ for PCOS, Rachel insisted on being tested with her GP, having previously been told she couldn’t have the condition as she had children.
Rachel told UNILAD:
The heartache of not knowing has you thinking all sorts, I know one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, but to know why, have investigations, etc. means you can at least rule things out or find the cause and see if there are any treatments available.
I could have been given medication (metformin) to potentially prevent miscarriage had they known about my PCOS. If I had been tested after the first miscarriage I would have known this and medical professionals would have known and I would potentially have been spared the heartache.
UNILAD also spoke with Isabel Seligman, 47, a mother who has sadly lost four babies and would have ‘loved’ to have had more support during her miscarriages.
Recalling her first miscarriage, Isabel said:
While actively bleeding, I was dismissed by one GP as ‘hysterical’, sent home with a packet of stomach-ache tabs by the night-time emergency doctor, and then sent alone on the bus from one hospital A&E to another because ‘their radiographer had gone home and no one else could come to work the scanner’.
While actively miscarrying my first pregnancy. I had no idea what’s going on. Forget mental support – some physical support would have been alright! A lift to the other hospital, an explanation of what I was going through.
While I was waiting, a nurse on shift told me I should pray. Maybe she thought that was helpful, but it was the exact opposite of helpful.
I wholeheartedly believe we now live in a society that’s barely moved on at all from the dark ages. Situations and conditions that don’t impact people born as men are dismissed as ‘women’s issues’. This has to change.
Empathy is all good and well, but first hand experience of those issues is crucial, for those who write policies that effect members of society who are at risk of miscarriage. Repeated or singular, it’s a devastating experience.
Thanks to the bravery and hard work of campaigners such as Blake, the recommendation of a graded system where women receive care and support after every miscarriage will be looked at as part of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ (RCOG) review of the current guidelines.
However, the government has yet to make a firm commitment on this recommendation, a step that would greatly benefit so many women and their families across the UK.
You can sign the petition here.
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677.
Most Read StoriesMost Read
CreditsThe Lancet and 2 others
American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (AJOG)