Experiences of miscarriage

Many parents we spoke to experienced miscarriage. Some had a single miscarriage, while others experienced two or more (multiple miscarriage). For a few parents this happened before having children, and for others it took place between children. A couple of parents decided not to have any more children because of the risk to their health as a result of potential further miscarriages. Most parents perceived miscarriage to be a common occurrence, yet felt that people generally didn't talk about it or know how to appropriately respond to someone who had experienced miscarriage.

Parents' responses to miscarriage varied widely. Some described being 'disappointed', or mentioned their experience of miscarriage only briefly. Georgia, a mother of two, said that while her two miscarriages had 'played on' her mind, she felt her experience was 'fairly ordinary'. Others felt 'sad', 'upset' or 'angry', and some had more 'traumatic' experiences. French experienced multiple miscarriages, including miscarrying an IVF pregnancy, before she adopted three children from overseas. She described how she felt after her first miscarriage: 'I had no coping mechanism for what it threw up at me because life had just gone along quite nicely and I think I wasn't prepared and I don't think you ever can be prepared'.

While many parents recognised miscarriage was a common occurrence, a few said they felt people did not talk openly about it. Deb felt that there was 'stigma' associated with miscarriage and thought that the more people talk about it, the less isolated those experiencing miscarriage would feel.

Deb thought women hid their experiences of miscarriage, and was amazed by the number of people who said they had experienced it after she talked about her own miscarriage.

Some parents felt people did not know how to respond appropriately when being told about another person's miscarriage. Louise, who experienced three miscarriages between her first and second children, said: 'I think some people avoid talking to you, which I can understand, but isn't helpful'. A few mothers felt that people couldn't understand if they hadn't been through it themselves. Some felt frustrated by people telling them that it was 'meant to be'. French suggested that 'sometimes people don't feel comfortable with the emotion that comes with it'. She thought that an education campaign teaching people to deal with miscarriage in a more sensitive manner would be useful.

French described how her 'world collapsed' when she had her first miscarriage. 'Untelling' people about her pregnancy was hard.

Some parents who experienced miscarriages commented on the care provided to them by health professionals. Although Sian was upset that because her first child had died at 17 weeks' gestation, this was not legally recognised as a death, she was very appreciative of the opportunity to give birth to her baby. As she explained: 'people I've met that lost babies 20 years or more, even 10 years ago, it was pretty horrific and they didn't get to hold the baby or do any, anything like that. There wasn't the understanding in the medical fraternity at the time about what women and parents need at that point, which is most people want to hold their child and they want to spend time with them'.

Simon described the interactions he and his wife had had with health professionals in relation to the multiple miscarriages they experienced before and after they had their son, and the frustration of not having any 'answers'.

Louise felt that the way the medical staff dealt with her experience of three miscarriages made her situation worse. She described the language they used as 'detached', and wondered if their insensitivity reflected a lack of training or if they just felt uncomfortable talking with her about her emotional experience of miscarriage.

Loretta, a mother of two, described how she became depressed after having a miscarriage and dilation and curettage (D&C) overseas before she'd had children. She felt there was a lack of sensitivity toward her from health professionals.

People who experienced a miscarriage before becoming parents recalled either feeling concerned about their ability to have any children in the future, or feeling pressure from family members to have children. Chandrika, a migrant mother from Sri Lanka who experienced three miscarriages before her first child, described the 'terrible time' she had with her family when she didn't have a baby soon after getting married: 'In our culture, without children - my relatives were always teasing ... asking why. Even my mother is very sad. Always the cousins and everyone ask her, "Why doesn't your daughter have any kids?"'.

Even though Loretta experienced a 'horrifying' and 'terrifying' dilation and curettage (D&C) she said her biggest fear after her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage was that she might not ever be able to have a child (she has since had two children).

Several parents who experienced miscarriage said it impacted on their emotions before and during subsequent pregnancies. When Louise became pregnant with her second child after three miscarriages, she 'burst into tears' because she 'just expected to have another miscarriage'. She said while pregnant with her second child she was 'constantly worrying something was going to happen'. French described going through an 'obsessive stage' and not being able to relax because she was trying so hard to get pregnant again after her first miscarriage. Sian, whose daughter died at 17 weeks' gestation, said the devastating experience 'hardened' her 'resolve' to get pregnant again (she went on to have a son).

After experiencing several miscarriages Melanie felt 'anxious' during her pregnancy with her son. Another miscarriage after having her son made her feel her dreams of a larger family had been 'shattered'.

A number of women referred to the physical aspects of miscarriage, including Susanne who described it as 'terrifying' and talked about the 'strange relationship' she had with her body afterwards. Some mothers referred to the bleeding they experienced when miscarrying. French said she 'still felt pregnant' for about two weeks after she had a miscarriage and wasn't prepared for feeling this way.

Some parents found emotional support after their experience of miscarriage by talking with friends and family including those who had also experienced miscarriage, joining a support group for people who had been in similar situations, talking with a counsellor, or through religion.

After her traumatic experience of losing her baby at 17 weeks, Sian found support in a local group for mothers who had similar experiences.

Louise thought that miscarriage was part of the 'experience of women'. She believed it was important that woman feel comfortable to talk about their experiences.

See Resources and information for contact details of support groups for stillbirth and late miscarriage.