Despite one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, the silence around the subject means that many women who have lost babies harbour unexpressed feelings of failure, isolation and guilt, research by Tommy’s has found.
- Tommy's study of over 6,000 women highlights a wide array of feelings following miscarriage.
- Tommy’s CEO Jane Brewin says current policy in the UK to wait for three miscarriages before investigating causes is unacceptable.
- Tommy’s will fund the UK’s first national Miscarriage Research Centre to open in April 2016.
- Tommy’s aims to halve the number of miscarriages by 2030 through funding medical research.
We want to help women like Rosie
85% of women who had a miscarriage said that they didn’t think people understood what they had gone through.
A November 2015 poll of more than 6,000 women who experienced miscarriage revealed some upsetting truths.
- 70% of women said that they felt guilty about miscarriage
- 79% said they felt like a failure after losing a pregnancy
- Two thirds of women said they found it hard to talk about their miscarriage
- 85% said that they didn’t think people understood what they had gone through
- 67% felt that they couldn’t talk to their best friend
- 35% didn’t feel like they could talk to the father about their experience.
When women polled in the survey did try to talk about what they were going through, they felt a lack of understanding meant many people didn’t know what to say. More than a third receiving the well-meaning but hurtful comments that the baby they had lost “Wasn’t really a baby” and a massive 84% were told, ‘It wasn’t meant to be.’
In late 2015, Tommy’s launched #misCOURAGE, a nationwide campaign on Facebook and Twitter to encourage mums, dads, family, friends and all those who have experienced miscarriage, directly or indirectly, to speak up, share their experiences, show their support and tell their stories of losing a pregnancy. Supporting the campaign are the writer Viv Groskop, who has written compellingly about her own experience, and broadcaster Lisa Francesca Nand whose recent documentary First Heartbeat tells the story of her own experiences of miscarriage.
Francesca Dresner, who suffered four miscarriages, said: “I was so angry and confused. I felt like a fraud. I spent 24 hours carrying my dead baby which was unbearably traumatic. Looking back, I don’t know how we kept going but I’m so grateful that we did. Miscarriage is a devastating experience which is why Tommy’s work is so vitally important. Their tireless research will ensure fewer women go through the agony I did.”
Currently, women in the UK have to endure three consecutive miscarriages before their case is fully investigated. Tommy’s CEO, Jane Brewin, says: “It is not acceptable for a couple to go through this much suffering and uncertainty. We would like to see an immediate reduction to two and ultimately our aim is that every miscarriage is taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.”
While one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, relatively little is known about what causes it. In order to undertake crucial medical research into miscarriage and reduce its prevalence, Tommy’s is opening the UK’s first national Miscarriage Research Centre in April 2016.
Lack of open discussion about miscarriage means lack of funding and support for research
Tommy’s aims to halve the number of miscarriages by 2030 by funding medical research. Tommy’s has led research into stillbirth for more than five years and can now offer women a much clearer understanding of the reasons. It is hoped that funding and research into miscarriage will be able to offer the same medical explanation to women who experience it.
Jane Brewin added: “We think that some of the social taboos that surround open discussion of miscarriage are in part the cause of the limited funding and support for research into prevention. Medical science doesn’t fully understand miscarriage which is why funding is so critical. Our centre will lead research to answer questions about unexplained early miscarriage and lead to prevention. It will identify women at risk, focus on those that need most help and will ask how medical science can improve antenatal care to prevent miscarriages happening. It will also improve care for women who have experienced miscarriage.”
“The silence that surrounds miscarriage makes it difficult for women to be open about their experience. Silence creates an implicit assumption that all women feel the same but they don't. We hope that by encouraging women to speak about their miscarriages, we can move to a deeper understanding of their experiences.”
Professor Phillip Bennett, Director of the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology, Imperial College London, said: “As a doctor, I wish I could give my patients the answers they’re looking for. The thing is, we have the expertise, the technology, the drive – we just need the funding. Tommy’s new centre is the most promising chance yet of making breakthroughs in our understanding of early miscarriage.”
Losing a baby at any stage is traumatic
Rosie Houston, who experienced four miscarriages said: “I often felt frustrated at people’s responses, comments such as ‘They are so common’, ‘It will happen’ or ‘At least it was early’. But I was so gutted and sad. People lose their parents but you’d never respond with ‘It happens’. Losing a baby at any stage of pregnancy is traumatic and all you really want to hear is ‘I’m so sorry.’”
Emma Benjamin, who lost five babies through miscarriage said:
“I’ve always been quite open about my miscarriages. I felt so confused and isolated and thought sharing my experience might make another woman feel less so. In the beginning I felt such a sense of failure, like it must be my fault. I believe that’s a big part of the reason that women don’t talk about miscarriage, it feels almost a source of shame.”
Tommy's funds research into pregnancy problems and provides information to parents. We believe it is unacceptable that one in four women lose a baby during pregnancy and birth.
When a pregnancy fails or a baby dies, it causes devastation. Twenty three years ago, frustrated at the lack of research that meant they could rarely tell families why their babies were dying, two obstetricians in St Thomas' Hospital in London were inspired to start a campaign for more research into pregnancy problems.
Soon, the cause was taken up by others and the charity 'Tommy's' (after St Thomas' Hospital) was born. That was 1992. Today, we lead the way in maternal and fetal research in the UK.
For more information about the #misCOURAGE campaign please contact Tommy's press office on 0207 398 3436 or email [email protected]
Notes to editors
- The #misCOURAGE social media campaign launched on Monday 16 November 2015
- The survey was conducted via Tommy’s Facebook group
- A total of 6,540 women answered the survey