Three quarters of women feel ‘unsupported’ after miscarriage

Three quarters of women feel ‘unsupported’ after miscarriage

26/06/2019

According to new research, 75 per cent of women who experience a miscarriage feel unsupported by health carers after their loss.

A survey, conducted by the University of Melbourne and the Pink Elephants Support Network, interviewed 400 women who had experienced miscarriage and found most had been dismissed without being referred to a support service or provided with information on miscarriage following their loss.

Like many women, Tahyna MacManus felt unsupported after her miscarriages.

With one in four pregnancies ending before 12 weeks, and one in three pregnant women over the age of 35 suffering a miscarriage, the lack of support and recognition makes miscarriage a “disenfranchised grief”, says Pink Elephants director Samantha Payne.

“We found 88 per cent of women who experienced a miscarriage in the last two years wanted support,” Payne said. “If women are left to internalise feelings of grief, it can turn into anxiety or depression.”

Whether the loss occurs at eight or 10 or 20 weeks “the impact is the same”, Payne said.

In early pregnancy many women are not reaching out for, or being offered, support because they are told “it’s common” and “at least you can get pregnant again”, Payne said.

“You should never be told ‘at least…’. You wouldn’t use that with other forms of grief.”

Though 80 per cent of women who experience a miscarriage will go on to experience a healthy pregnancy, the lack of validation of their grief leaves many struggling to process the experience and prevents them from enjoying future pregnancies.

Tahyna MacManus has had three miscarriages: the first at six weeks, the second at 12 weeks, and the third about a day after finding out she was pregnant.

“No matter what stage of pregnancy, it’s still the loss of a dream of motherhood and a child you had imagined,” said the actor and director, who is a Pink Elephants celebrity ambassador.

In early pregnancy many women are not reaching out for, or being offered, support.

After her first miscarriage, she was told to “just go home, take a Panadol and wait”.

“I was like 'do I see a doctor or what do I do'?” she recalled. She went home “feeling like a number” and at no point was offered additional information or put in touch with support services.

While she felt “lucky” her husband and friends were “super supportive” she still didn’t know how to navigate her grief and turned to the dark rabbit hole of Dr Google for answers. “It was a confusing time,” said the 33-year-old.

The second time she miscarried, her GP “thankfully” acknowledged that the medical profession aren’t always supportive of early-term loss and she had an ultrasound technician who was “very gentle” and allowed her the space to sob.

“At least [they] acknowledged it,” she said. “At least I felt like a human being.”

The third time it happened, she was “well accustomed” to it and in the process of making a documentary about miscarriage.

“I was on set directing and I said, ‘I’m bleeding,’” she recalled.

By this stage, she had done her own research and discovered Pink Elephants, a charity committed to helping women through early pregnancy loss. MacManus went on to have two healthy children, daughter Echo, 2, and three-month-old baby boy, Oisin Lir.

Tahyna MacManus with her husband and two children.

But, she felt detached and fearful throughout those pregnancies.

“The joy of pregnancy is somewhat taken away and you can’t help but overanalyse it,” she said. “And there’s detachment because if you become attached and then you lose it…”

Having the support of other women who had been through the same experience helped.

“I was so terrified, it was so nice to hear ‘no, that’s normal’. What I loved was their online community. I can say what I want without being judged or dismissed,” MacManus said. “Other women’s experiences helped me process my grief.”

Payne said there is “a gap in the healthcare system” and would like to see healthcare professionals providing women with the emotional support they need by providing information and connecting women with services like Pink Elephants. McManus agreed.

“I wouldn’t want someone else to go through what I went through,” she said, adding that she hoped other women knew they were "not alone in your experience and there are amazing resources out there”.

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