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 Tommy’s #misCOURAGE campaign
please contact Hannah Blake on [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
Today, we are thrilled to announce that we are opening the UK's first national centre dedicated to miscarriage research!
Leading clinicians at the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research
1 in 4 women experience a miscarriage in their lifetime. This is a quarter of all mothers-to-be, a quarter of all families affected by loss. Tommy’s believes that the current situation can and must change – so in 2016, we opened the UK’s first national centre dedicated to miscarriage research.
Miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK, and it’s also the least understood. Tommy's has opened the UK's first national research centre dedicated to early miscarriage.
Roslyn and Paul from South Ayrshire in Scotland had an early miscarriage before getting pregnant with their first daughter Ava who is now 4 years old. They went on to lose another 3 babies before getting a referral to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at University Hospital in Coventry. Their second daughter, Ciara, was born in April 2019 and is now 7 months old.
Neither of us had ever contemplated miscarriage - it simply wasn’t in our thoughts. Yes we’d of course heard of it, but we never for one moment thought it would happen to us.
Danielle and her husband Paul experienced a missed miscarriage before their first daughter Eva, 5, was born. They had 3 more heartbreaking losses before self-referring to Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. Danielle gave birth to baby Louie in July 2019.
”If I can help just one person get through this awful experience, then it is worth it. I want people to know that they are not alone.”
By Anonymous (not verified) on 2 Jul 2017 - 17:28
I have had two miscarriages one in 2015 at 17 weeks and one in 2017 June at 12 weeks.Emotional trauma is more.Attitude of health care professionals are horrible.National policy is to investigate after 3 consecutive miscarriages
By Midwife @Tommys on 3 Jul 2017 - 15:41
You are correct in that the loss of a baby at any gestation is traumatic however, investigation after 3 first trimester miscarriages is current policy but it is also policy to investigate after only one second trimester miscarriage. You should therefore be able to ask your GP to refer you for tests or call us on 0800 0147 800 for advice. Best wishes Tommy's midwives
By Liz Ellis (not verified) on 20 Feb 2017 - 16:32
Hi, sadly I suffered a miscarriage (my 1st and only so far) with my 3rd child at exactly 13 weeks after bleeding for two weeks. I don't think anyone can understand how emotionally painful it is until you experience it for yourself or how long it takes to evenly slightly get over it and try to move on. I'm terrified to try again in case I go though the same thing again, not knowing the cause as to why I misscarried makes it even harder, but at the same time I am desperate to get pregnant again. This baby would have been my partners first child which makes even more harder as I don't want to "let him down" if we were to go though it again. Another thing people forget is that the expectant father suffers as well as the mother. It is an extremely hard thing to go though at any stage of your pregnancy. I didn't really just how high the miscarriage rate is until I went though it and friends and family i spoke to told me about their experiences. This is not a subject that should be kept quiet like is has a stigma attached to it, unfortunately it happens and women and their partners should be able to discuss it openly without felling like it's a dirty subject.
By Midwife @Tommys on 20 Feb 2017 - 16:44
So sorry to hear of your loss and how emotionally painful it has been. It is expected to feel torn between being terrified to try again and so desperately wanting to be pregnant too. Not to mention the impact on your partner and family as you've highlighted.
It is also sad how little miscarriage is discussed about and yet how many women have lost a baby - you're right, we need to discuss this more openly. Hopefully with messages like yours and other on this thread as well our #Miscourage campaign its a start.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 2 Jan 2017 - 21:45
I first got pregnant of april 2016 4 days after I found out I was pregnant I miss carried,with hope me and my partner decided too try again then in June we then suffered another misscarage this time I was addmitted too hospital as they thought it might be an eptopic pregnancy,thankfully it wasn't but was still such a blow too us,eventually I got pregnant again oct and sadley the same thing happened again,I am now awaiting tests too see why this is happening,it gets harder and harder every time the fact that women have too go thru this 3 times before we get any answers is horrific,I am still hopefully one day I will be a mum it's all I've ever wanted and any help with trying too come too terms with miscarriage is amazing keep up the good word and let's not make misscarriage a taboo subject
By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Jan 2017 - 15:55
So sad to read your experiences but thank you for writing. You are quite right that we need to talk about this. Best wishes to you in the future and keep in touch x
By Anonymous (not verified) on 27 Apr 2016 - 06:40
I've had two miscarriages since August and I have recently started a blog sharing my experiences. It has aided my emotional recovery but I have also been contacted by so many men and women about their experiences of miscarriages. It has provided a platform for people to share their experiences. I am overjoyed to hear this news as I have felt that there is too little consideration for the emotional trauma caused by miscarriage. I was lucky to have stumbled across a new GP in January who referred me to a charity for counselling having had my second miscarriage. Not knowing the cause is definitely one of the biggest thing that adds to the anxieties and emotional difficulties. It seems so cruel that women have to endure three miscarriages and the physical and emotional trauma that they bring before anything is done.