A survey of 1,081 women who have lost a child during pregnancy or premature birth has found that 71 per cent are not given a medical reason why it happened. In most cases, healthcare professionals simply do not know why a pregnancy loss or preterm birth has happened.
In the same survey 82 per cent of parents said they blamed themselves and 77 per cent felt guilty for what happened, though for the vast majority their actions would not have changed the outcome.
The survey, conducted by national charity Tommy’s, coincides with the launch on 9 September of TELL ME WHY, a campaign calling for more funding into research into miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm birth.
Tommy’s believes that parents deserve to be told why their baby has died or has been born prematurely. As well as ending the cycle of self-blame and guilt, this will improve understanding of the biological processes at work and tackle the common myth that baby loss or preterm birth is ‘just one of those things’ and, therefore, cannot be prevented.
Pregnancy loss stands in contrast to most other medical conditions, suffering from widespread public opinion that a miscarriage or a stillbirth is ‘one of those things’ and that the baby ‘wasn’t meant to be’. This fatalistic attitude leads to a lack of momentum to bring about change and improvements in reproductive health and pregnancy care.
The only way to increase understanding and be able to give people the real reason for their loss is to increase the amount of research happening in reproductive health to match other areas like heart disease and cancer. For example, Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, which only opened in 2016, currently carries out virtually all research trials for miscarriage in the UK.
Tommy’s ambassador Ellie Robson-Grice, a 36-year-old Civil Servant who lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband Michael and children Aidan (4) and Sam (7 months) features in the Tell Me Why campaign film says: “I was left feeling confused and frustrated by the lack of answers and blamed myself. I wondered if it was because I was unable to carry male pregnancies or even if it was because I went to a gig or bought a babygrow too early. Even after 12 losses the advice was just to keep trying. I’d lost all hope but felt so strongly that there had to be answers, I decided to participate in research. I wanted to help others and try to stop miscarriage from happening. This decision changed everything for us, we are now proud parents to two amazing rainbow children. Research is just so important.”
Jane Brewin, Tommy’s Chief Executive, says: “When a baby dies during pregnancy or is born too soon, parents are often told that it’s ‘just one of those things’. Tommy’s believes that pregnancy complications and baby loss are neither inevitable nor acceptable. Our research proves that we can find answers and prevent babies from dying before, during and after birth. However, we need more funding for more research into reproductive health to tell all parents why it is happening and how we can prevent it happening again.”
This campaign has been part-funded by The Wellcome Trust to improve public understanding of the part of research in investigation reproductive complications to improve knowledge, which will enable better treatment and care.
For more details about the Tell Me Why campaign, visit the Tommy’s website