Devastating impact of miscarriage laid bare in new research

Leading experts from our National Centre for Miscarriage Research and the University of Birmingham have laid bare the devastating impact of miscarriage and have set out recommendations to improve treatment and care in a series of 3 articles published today (27 April 2021) in The Lancet.
  • Black women found to be at 40% increased risk of miscarriage compared to White women
  • Miscarriage was seen to double the risk of depression and quadruple the risk of suicide
  • After having 3 miscarriages, women are 6.1 times more likely to suffer from blood clots in later life
  • Petition to change current ‘3 miscarriage care rule’ has already gathered more than 120,000 signatures

This breaking research in The Lancet journal thoroughly debunks the long-held myth that miscarriage is ‘just one of those things’ and an unavoidable part of a pregnancy journey. It also poses a serious challenge to the current UK policy of waiting until a woman has gone through 3 miscarriages in a row before any support, tests or treatment are offered.  

“When we lost our third baby, as heartbroken as I was, it was almost a relief - because now something would get done.” 

On the back of the research findings and recommendations, we’re urgently calling on the UK government to improve miscarriage care, in particular to stop making women go through 3 miscarriages before getting support and to get personalised care sooner for women at higher risk.

Study author Arri Coomarasamy, Director of our National Centre for Miscarriage Research and Professor of Gynaecology & Reproductive Medicine at the University of Birmingham, said: 

“The UK must change its approach to miscarriage care, not only to reduce the risk wherever possible but also to better support those who do tragically lose their babies.”

Black mothers at huge increased risk

Our researchers found that Black women have a 40% increased risk of miscarriage compared to White women. Other factors have been accounted and adjusted for, making ethnicity a clear risk factor. This is devastating, unacceptable and urgently needs to change. 

We’re asking that Black women should be treated as a higher risk group in early pregnancy and should receive personalised care from the start.

Further investigation is urgently needed to understand the reasons for this stark contrast, and our researchers are now investigating whether it could be related to other health issues that more commonly affect Black women and can complicate pregnancy, such as fibroid conditions and autoimmune disorders. 

Effect on mental health much greater than previously considered

There is a widespread misconception that an early pregnancy loss happens too soon to impact significantly on mental health, but our researchers have found profound psychological effects of miscarriage on both parents. Miscarriage was seen to:

  • quadruple the risk of suicide
  • double the risk of depression
  • raise the risk of anxiety

These findings follow on from previous studies from another team at our research centre showing that 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 12 partners experience long-term symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after miscarriage.

We’re calling for mental health support to be available after every miscarriage for those who need it. 

Links to long-term maternal physical health conditions

This breaking research is the first to highlight the lasting impact of miscarriage on a mother’s’ long-term physical health. Our researchers found that after having 3 miscarriages, women are:

  • 1.4 times more likely to suffer from heart disease 
  • 6.1 times more likely to suffer from blood clots

Our study also shows that recurrent miscarriage can be linked to future complications, as pregnancies are:

  • 1.8 times more likely to end in premature birth 
  • 1.7 times more likely to more likely to experience placental abruption in a later pregnancy
  • 1.6 times more likely to end in stillbirth

Miscarriage itself was shown to increase the chances of another miscarriage in the future, with risk rising about 10% each time – so someone experiencing 3 miscarriages is 4 times more likely to lose a baby than someone who has never been through it. We urgently need more research into pregnancy complications to reduce these devastating figures. 

Tommy's CEO, Jane Brewin, said: 

“Everyone should be given care and advice after each miscarriage to reduce the chance of it happening again, with specialist support for those most at risk. Mothers’ care must consider their long-term risks, especially in future pregnancies, and both parents must be offered mental health support. We know what to do and how to do it – now we need a commitment from the NHS to put the knowledge we have into practice everywhere.”

Modifiable risk-factors

The research identified a number of things that can make miscarriage more likely, and that can be controlled with the right information and support, for example smoking, alcohol use and BMI.

That’s why we’re also calling for improved preconception information and support so parents-to-be are able to make informed decisions to increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy.

A letter of support

Many organisations involved in maternal health, including the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have signed a letter from Tommy's to UK Health Minister, Matt Hancock, calling for changes to miscarriage care in the UK.