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October 12th 2020

Medical Negligence

More must be done to support families who suffer baby loss in early pregnancy

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens

Managing Director, London and South

More must be done to support families who suffer baby loss in early pregnancy

By Amanda Stevens, a former hospital manager and solicitor

By Amanda Stevens, a former hospital manager and solicitor

As a former NHS manager who also worked in the community before turning to the legal profession, I am aware of the many things which can go wrong during pregnancy and the huge impact baby loss has on families.

Thankfully, it is an issue which, through excellent initiatives like Baby Loss Awareness Week and many exceptional charity organisations which support bereaved families, has become much more understood in recent years.

There are now an increased number of networks to support people through difficult days.

However, personally, I still feel there is a significant gap in the support provided, especially for those parents who lose a baby in the early stages of pregnancy.

People who lose a precious baby between six and 18 weeks are too often left to carry that burden largely alone, not only in the days and weeks after, but longer term too and even into future pregnancies.

Lack of referral process or counselling support for early pregnancy loss

These days it is possible to discover you are pregnant in the first few weeks after conception, so a miscarriage during early pregnancy can be extremely devastating for someone who has known they were pregnant since week one or two.

During early pregnancy, most parents have also not told friends and family of their news. They’ve also usually not told their employers.

As there is no referral process for counselling or support, people who do lose babies in early pregnancy therefore often find themselves thrown back into facing the outside world, when hiding their own internal pain.

They are expected to slot back into day to day life, and also work, with little or no support around them, and most other people being completely oblivious to their suffering.

An estimated one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and it is something which often happens between six and 18 weeks into pregnancy.

Like any loss, it results in a wide range of feelings that vary from person to person, but for many, as news of their pregnancy was not shared with others, nor is their suffering and heartache when tragedy strikes.

I am aware of many people who have suffered a miscarriage and I know they repeatedly ask themselves why it has happened and whether they have done anything to cause it. It is a time when women and their partners need dedicated support on hand.

Support is also needed in the future.

A miscarriage in a previous pregnancy can really impact upon a mother’s experience in future pregnancies. They are often more anxious, causing stress and anxiety.

When pregnant women have their first midwife appointment at 10 weeks, they are likely to be asked if they have had any other pregnancies or children, and too often, if they mention a previous miscarriage, it is simply noted on their file and the midwife moves on to the next question.

Women who have experienced miscarriage during early pregnancy need to be given the opportunity to speak about how it has affected them and be offered suitable support, regardless of when it happened.

Some people will experience multiple losses in their lives which can be extremely difficult to understand and deal with. They should never be left dealing with it alone.

Employers now offered help to establish miscarriage policies

I’ve already mentioned that during early pregnancy most people won’t tell their employer, and therefore return to work immediately after suffering a miscarriage.  This is something which I feel really strongly about and is a big problem in need of change.

Latest research reveals a clear lack of support from employers for women returning to work after a miscarriage, with almost half of those affected saying they felt forced to return to work before they were ready while 11% ultimately ended up leaving their roles.

Many other respondents reported that they were given time off but did not receive full pay so had to return before they were ready.

With no official guidance in place around miscarriage and the workplace, the survey also showed that even compassionate employers sometimes struggle to know how best to offer support, and over 75 per cent of respondents said they would welcome a specific miscarriage policy in the workplace.

The Miscarriage Association is now urging employers to offer better support to staff going through pregnancy loss and it has created a Miscarriage and the Workplace resource hub with information about rights and responsibilities, good practice, suggestions on how best to talk about miscarriage in the workplace, information for HR departments and a template miscarriage policy.

It also includes details on how to support partners. I highly recommend all employers to consider introducing such policy to ensure they are supporting employees who are struggling after a miscarriage.

If you have experienced a miscarriage and are seeking support, you can contact the below support groups

The Miscarriage Association.

Helpline 01924 200795

info@miscarriageassociation.org.uk

Tommy’s

Tommy’s pregnancy line 0800 014 7800

midwife@tommys.org

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