In the UK, an estimated one in five pregnancies are thought to end in miscarriage, yet it’s rarely spoken about.
ITV Tonight - Miscarriage: Our Hidden Loss sees ITV News presenter Andrea Byrne opening up about her own experience of miscarriage, with the aim of helping break down the stigma that still surrounds it. Andrea talks about the mental and physical effects of pregnancy loss, as well as the impact on her life with husband Lee Byrne (former Wales Rugby International and British and Irish Lion).
Throughout the programme Andrea meets couples who have gone through a similar loss to her own; discovers the inequalities in miscarriage care and the patchy (sometimes even non existent) mental health support.
Her journey takes her back to the hospital in Wales where she experienced her own losses. The early pregnancy unit there is right next to the maternity ward, and Andrea recalls how she felt hearing newborn babies as she learnt they’d lost theirs.
It’s something the Head of Midwifery Suzanne Hardacre admits isn’t ideal.
Tonight’s spoken to all of the health boards in England and Wales.
Some areas didn’t even have an early pregnancy unit, which is where you go if you fear you’re losing your baby.
And whilst some hospitals have specialist clinics that deal with recurrent miscarriage, (that’s generally three in a row) there are others that have nothing.
In Essex, Andrea meets Natasha. She had eight miscarriages before finally having her son Judah. She describes how some hospitals seemed to provide better care than others.
Research done by the pregnancy charity Tommy’s showed that black women have a 43% greater risk of miscarriage than white women. It’s something Natasha says wasn’t addressed during her treatment.
The Government in England says trying to tackle inequality in healthcare is something they’re working on.
In Coventry, a new research trial is giving some hope.
Caroline’s one of 450 women taking part in a research trial to test whether antibiotics can improve the lining of the womb to help sustain a pregnancy.
Having already had 21 miscarriages Caroline agreed to be part of the trial, but won’t know until the end of the year whether she took the drug or a placebo. Tonight’s cameras filmed with her as she attended her final growth scan in July.
Professor Siobhan Quenby - University Of Warwick, is leading the research and believes that we will see a change to the way miscarriages are treated:
At the end of July Caroline welcomed baby Amelia, and both mother and baby are doing well.
A recent review into pregnancy loss made a number of recommendations to improve miscarriage care across England. It made 73 recommendations for change, including consistent earlier access to testing and more compassionate support available 24/7.
Although widely welcomed by charities, there is an acknowledgment that change will take time.
The Government told Tonight:
"Our response sets out the immediate action we are going to be taking to prioritise the 20 recommendations that we can begin to implement in the short term. We want to prioritise three areas for action that the report has recommended we take action on. These are improving care for women who have multiple miscarriages, improving access for women to cold storage facilities for fetal remains and introducing the Certificate of Baby Loss under 24 weeks gestation."
The Governments for the devolved nations have said the following:
Loss at any stage of pregnancy is devastating and we are committed to ensuring every family who experiences a miscarriage is appropriately and compassionately supported.
We are improving miscarriage care and support in line with our commitment to take forward the recommendations within the Lancet Series “Miscarriage Matters” published in April 2021.
This includes the development of individualised care plans after a woman’s first, second and subsequent miscarriage, a progesterone protocol, and ensuring women’s services in Health Boards have dedicated facilities for those experiencing unexpected pregnancy complications.
There have been many developments over the past number of years in services for women and their partners who sadly experience pregnancy and baby loss but the Department nevertheless recognises that there is a need for further improvement in relation to these services.
Whilst the Independent Pregnancy Loss Review was commissioned by the Westminster Government and relates to services in England, officials have continued to liaise with relevant colleagues across the UK to identify opportunities for improvement.
HELP AND SUPPORT:
If you have been affected by the topics raised in this article or programme, organisations that can offer support include Tommy’s on 020 7398 3400 (www.tommys.org)
Sands on 0808 164 3332 ( www.sands.org.uk )
The Miscarriage Association ( www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk )
Fertility Network on 0121 323 505 ( https://fertilitynetworkuk.org )
You can watch ITV Tonight - Miscarriage: Our Hidden Loss at 8.30pm this evening on ITV1 and ITVX