Louisa Pritchard [Grazia]
Having a miscarriage was the most painful thing I’ve ever been through. It was hard enough losing my longed-for baby, but what added to the agony was the traumatic experience we had at hospital.
Which is why I’m saddened – but not surprised – by the new Mumsnet research which found the care shown to women who miscarry is woefully lacking. From their research, half of women who miscarried said they had to wait over 24 hours for a scan to find out if their baby was still alive while 47 per cent were treated alongside women with ongoing pregnancies.
In my case, I was eight weeks pregnant when I went for a scan with my husband at our hospital’s early pregnancy unit. Early blood tests had revealed my pregnancy hormone levels were very low, meaning there was a strong change the embryo had stopped developing. Devastated – we had been trying to get pregnant for three years – we sat in silence in the hospital, neither daring to look at the other for fear of crying. Our agony was compounded by watching woman after woman called in before us for their scans, each coming out with a radiant smile and hugging their partner in excitement.
Meanwhile another bank of seats just feet away were for heavily pregnant women, all coming in for their routine check-ups and all with that wonderful pregnancy glow. The one I so desperately hoped I’d have…
When it was our turn, a scan showed there was an embryo but the nurse said it looked like it had stopped developing at six weeks. When I asked her what that meant she told me things could still work out fine. But then as she typed up her notes, I could see over her shoulder the devastating words, ‘this pregnancy is not viable’. And when I tearfully challenged her, she could only say, ‘Come back and see me if you start bleeding.’ Just a week later, I lost our baby.
For many women who lose their baby, there is a distressing story of lack of care. Eleven women surveyed by Mumsnet told how they were asked to store their foetus at home after miscarrying. One said, ‘[I don’t want to] catch my miscarried embryo in a urine sample pot at home, keep it in the fridge overnight if necessary, then take it on the train (two hours) for genetic testing.’
Another, who was waiting for a scan to find out if her baby was still alive, said, ‘When I asked how much longer it would be, I was told I was taking up their time.’
The Mumsnet campaign is calling for a code of conduct to make sure women who miscarry get the support and medical help they need. ‘There’s no escaping the pain of a miscarriage, but for this to be compounded by lack of treatment, pain relief, good care or just plain human kindness is completely unacceptable’, says Mumsnet Founder Justine Roberts. ‘We are calling on the three main parties to include a pledge in their manifestos to improve miscarriage care, based on the principles in our code.’
This code calls for supportive staff, access to scanning, a safe place for treatment and good information about that treatment.
To take action, tweet the politicians who can push through this miscarriage code of care: @Jeremy_Hunt, @andyburnhammp and @normanlamb.