Medicine doesn't fully understand why some pregnancies end in miscarriage, said Mary McCarthy, Unit Manager at Mercy Hospital for Women's Emergency Department. We do know that the most common reason for miscarriage is that something has gone wrong during conception with the chromosomes, but for some we will never know. When there are no clear medical answers many women look for causes and blame themselves thinking that somehow, somewhere along the line they did the wrong thing.
All too often Mary has heard women say that if only they hadn't argued with their partner or hadn't gone to the gym they would still be pregnant. I've heard women blame themselves because they were working too hard, had travelled, had lifted something heavy. It's important that we dispel these myths as they usually have no basis in fact. Worse still, they may compound the grief a woman experiences after a miscarriage. For some the loss can run very deep and grief can last a long time.
Mercy Hospital for Women staff work collaboratively to dispel myths about miscarriage. L-R: Dr Tahnee Dunlop, Obstetrics and Gynaecology Resident; Mary McCarthy, Unit Manager Emergency Department; Bridget Keogh, Registered Midwife |
One of the more isolating experiences that women and their partners can go through, explained Mary, is that family and friends may not have known about the pregnancy in the first place. If the loss occurred within the first 12 weeks they may not have made any big announcements, there may not have been any cheering and celebrating. So the loss may turn into a sadness that goes unspoken and unacknowledged by the important people in their lives.
To give women and their partners as much support as possible, Mary worked with doctors, midwives and pastoral carers to create a suite of resources that can be used in the Emergency Department and the Early Pregnancy Assessment Clinic at Mercy Hospital for Women and Werribee Mercy Hospital.
Clinicians need some training to discuss early pregnancy loss with women, said Mary. Without the proper insights how do they tell a couple who have struggled to become parents they have just lost their baby-to-be? How do they let someone know that miscarriage is common without minimising their sorrow?
At times of need, assistance in all its forms is welcome. We were very fortunate to have received funding from a donation managed through Mercy Health Foundation to produce an evidenced based education package for staff, a booklet on early pregnancy loss and information sheets on treatment options for miscarriage.
Through this support we've been able to make a range of really important resources for women through all parts of their recovery. Unsurprisingly women want to know as much as they can about why they experienced early pregnancy loss, but in the first moments of loss there's only so much information they can take in. The rest is white noise.
To assist with their emotional and physical recovery our priority is to make sure each woman is safe and well and not overwhelmed with details. From that point we can work with them to see how much information they want and need, and when.
Then we can break down the myths that can lead to women feeling confused and isolated as they deal with the known and unknown aspects of early pregnancy loss. Growing this understanding among health professionals also assists women in their emotional recovery.
Materials to support and inform
In caring for others, every act of kindness, compassion and understanding is important, and every resource is invaluable.
The materials developed at Mercy Hospital for Women to support thousands of women who experience early pregnancy loss were funded in great part by a donation managed through Mercy Health Foundation. We thank the donors for their ongoing support of research into women's and babies health so we can continually fosterthe improvement of care.
Date Published: 18 December 2013
First Published in Our Voice, Summer 2013