A new study has found that three-quarters of Australian woman who have suffered a miscarriage feel unsupported by their health care professionals after their loss.
A University of Melbourne study conducted a survey in partnership with Pink Elephants Support Network, which collected data from over 400 women who had experienced a miscarriage. The study found that most women had not been referred to a support service or given any information.
Pink Elephants director Samantha Payne calls miscarriage "disenfranchised grief", with one-quarter of pregnancies ending in miscarriage before the 12-week mark, and one in three pregnancies in women over 35 ending in miscarriage. “We found 88 per cent of women who experienced a miscarriage in the last two years wanted support,” Payne told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If women are left to internalise feelings of grief, it can turn into anxiety or depression.”
Payne adds that the "impact is the same", whether the loss comes early in pregnancy or later. Although 80 per cent of women who suffer a miscarriage will go on to have a healthy pregnancy, that loss can affect those pregnancies that will go to full term.
Tahyna MacManus, an ambassador for Pink Elephants, had three miscarriages but later went on to have two healthy babies.
“No matter what stage of pregnancy, it’s still the loss of a dream of motherhood and a child you had imagined,” the actress said.
Tahyna adds that the trauma from her early losses affected her mental health, and made her feel emotionally detached and scared while pregnant with her two children.
“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.
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”.