Tell me WHY - a Tommy's campaign

71% are not given a medical reason for their miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth. Without this, parents, particularly women, blame themselves. We need more research to find out the reasons why.

 6 September 2019

Today Tommy’s is launching its TELL ME WHY campaign to call for more research into loss and complications in pregnancy. Although 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriagestillbirth or premature birth, the majority of parents never find out why it has happened. In most cases healthcare professionals simply do not know why a pregnancy loss or preterm birth has happened. 

A survey of 1,081 women who have lost a child during pregnancy or had a premature birth found that 71% are not given a medical reason why it happened.

In the same survey:

  • 82% of parents said they blamed themselves for something they had done 
  • 77% felt guilty for what had happened.

The survey, conducted by Tommy’s, coincides with the launch of TELL ME WHY, a campaign that calls for more funding for research into miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm birth. 

Pregnancy loss, in contrast to most other medical conditions, suffers from widespread public opinion that a miscarriage or a stillbirth is ‘one of those things’ and that the baby ‘wasn’t meant to be’. This fatalistic attitude contributes to a failure to bring about change and improvements in reproductive health and pregnancy care.

As part of the campaign Tommy's has developed 3 animations to show how we are finding out why miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth happen, and how pinpointing the reasons WHY can bring about improvements in care. 

Tommy’s ambassador Ellie Robson-Grice, a 36-year-old Civil Servant who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband Michael and children Aidan (4) and Sam (7 months) features in the Tell Me Why campaign film says: “I was left feeling confused and frustrated by the lack of answers and blamed myself. I wondered if it was because I was unable to carry male pregnancies or even if it was because I went to a gig or bought a babygrow too early.  Even after 12 losses the advice was just to keep trying. I’d lost all hope but felt so strongly that there had to be answers, I decided to participate in research. I wanted to help others and try to stop miscarriage from happening. This decision changed everything for us, we are now proud parents to two amazing rainbow children. Research is just so important.”

Tommy’s believes that parents deserve to be told why their baby has died or has been born prematurely. As well as ending the cycle of self-blame and guilt, this will improve understanding of the biological processes at work and tackle the common myth that baby loss or preterm birth is ‘just one of those things’ and, therefore, cannot be prevented.

The only way to do this is to increase the amount of research happening in reproductive health to match other areas like heart disease and cancer. For example, Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, which opened in 2016, currently carries out virtually all research trials for miscarriage in the UK. 

Jane Brewin, Tommy’s Chief Executive, says: “When a baby dies during pregnancy or is born too soon, parents are often told that it’s ‘just one of those things’. Tommy’s believes that pregnancy complications and baby loss are neither inevitable nor acceptable. Our research proves that we can find answers and prevent babies from dying before, during and after birth.  However, we need more funding for more research into reproductive health to tell all parents why it is happening and how we can prevent it happening again.”

Visit the campaign hub here.

For more information or press interviews please contact Hannah Blake on [email protected] or 07730 039361

Notes to editors

  • Jane Brewin, Chief Executive of Tommy’s is available for comment or interview
  • Ellie Robson-Grice, 36, Civil Servant from Newcastle upon Tyne is available for interview
  • Tell Me Why campaign home page www.tommys.org/why
  • The survey was conducted in July 2019 and had 1,181 participants, all of whom had suffered one or more stillbirths, miscarriages or premature births.
  • The campaign is part-funded by The Wellcome Trust to improve public understanding of the science investigating pregnancy complications and baby loss to improve knowledge which will enable better treatment and care.

See how we are working on answers

  • Predicting and preventing premature birth

    Premature birth is the biggest killer of newborn babies in the UK and much of Tommy's research is devoted to predicting and preventing this. One discovery has made a huge difference to our ability to treat women in time.

  • Finding the reasons for stillbirth

    In more than half of stillbirths parents are not given a reason for their babies' death. Doctors simply do not know why it happens. This animation looks at how Tommy's researchers are finding out the causes of stillbirth and how this leads to treatments and saved lives.

  • Finding the reasons for miscarriage

    Too many miscarriages are unexplained. Our research is entirely dedicated to finding out why miscarriages happen and how to prevent it in the future.

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