The miscarriage of a baby at any time during a pregnancy can have a devastating effect on a woman and a family, and a new survey has revealed an alarming number of women are not offered any information from healthcare professionals about miscarriage, support services or where to turn for emotional support following a miscarriage.
Preliminary results from a recent collaborative study between the University of Melbourne and the Pink Elephants Support Network found of 400 women who responded to a survey about health service support around miscarriage, 300 (75%) were not offered information or leaflets about pregnancy loss organisations in the days following their miscarriage.
Fifty nine per cent (236 women) were not offered any information about miscarriage or support services, or any referral for emotional support at all.
Of these 236 women who were offered no support, 88 per cent would have liked to have received information or leaflets about pregnancy loss support organisations around the time of miscarriage.
One in four pregnancies will end before 12 weeks, and one in three pregnant women over the age of 35 will experience pregnancy loss.
Those affected feel physically and emotionally shocked
In Australia, 103,000 couples report a miscarriage every year, leaving those affected feeling physically and emotionally shocked and often at a loss as to where to turn for support.
Pink Elephants celebrity Ambassador, actress and director Tahyna MacManus, joins the one in four Australian women who lose their baby by the 12-week mark of their pregnancy.
Tahyna has had three miscarriages – the first at six weeks, the second at 12 weeks, and the third about 24 hours into her pregnancy.
‘None of my questions were answered,’ says MacManus. ‘I was really dismissed and I just felt like a number in a system and I felt as though my living and breathing child, to me, was just nothing to them.’
Tahyna says after one of her miscarriages, she went to the emergency room and was told to go and get an ultrasound. ‘I was then told to take a Panadol and just go home and wait for it to end basically.’
It’s time for women and their partners to receive support
Pink Elephants Support Network co-founder and Director Samantha Payne said it was time for women and their partners to receive the support they deserved following an incredibly traumatic loss.
‘Women and their partners going through miscarriage and infertility can experience really intense periods of emotional distress that can lead to heightened anxiety or depression if left unsupported,’ said Ms Payne.
‘These survey results should ring alarm bells for caregivers and their peers and communities. Women and their partners need to feel supported and be given the right type of information at the right time.
‘Unfortunately we live in a society that doesn’t always like to talk about loss, and because of that, we’re not always best equipped to understand how to help those who need it.’
Payne says we need to ensure partners, family, friends and even healthcare professionals are all prepared with the right tools to support women so they don’t get stuck in their grief.
‘Emotional wellbeing and mental health plays a vital part in a woman’s recovery journey, and having the right options available can give a woman a greater sense of control during a time that can otherwise be fraught with sadness and uncertainty.’
Free online resources
The Pink Elephants Support Network provides free online resources that have now been downloaded more than 7,300 times since launch in 2016; provides emotional support literature for women in the majority of hospitals in NSW; and is expanding into GP practices later this year.
The Pink Elephants Support Network also offers personalised peer support, six free sessions with another woman who has walked a similar journey, providing a safe space to share feelings and emotions.
Through a combination of online support groups, peer support and emotional support literature they are providing women and their partners with the validation, empathy and connections they need and deserve specific to early pregnancy loss.
Ms Payne said the responsibility of care and support was one the whole community needed to share, not just the charity space.
‘These survey results tell us there is a huge gap in linking women with the basic level of support they need, and the Pink Elephants Network can’t reach those women without help,’ she said. ‘We are calling on the Federal and State Governments, corporates and generous donors to commit to helping us to support more couples in need, couples who are left feeling devastatingly isolated, confused and often let down.’
Anybody seeking support after a miscarriage, can visit www.pinkelephantssupport.com to access free resources, downloadable fact sheets or to apply for assistance from a Peer Support Ambassador.