Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 08:56 GMT 09:56 UK
Couples 'need more support after miscarriage'
Few women miscarry in the later stages of pregnancy
Couples who miscarry need better information about the reasons and more support from health workers, according to a survey.
It found that only a third of women and 18% of their partners were asked how they were coping following a miscarriage and just a third were given any explanation about why it occurred.
The survey of 39 women and 32 men, carried out by Kim Conway and colleagues from Macquarie University in Australia and presented to the British Psychological Society on Thursday, found that seven out of 10 women wanted some form of explanation and to be asked how they were coping.
They say research in the UK shows there are strong parallels with Australia.
The couples were first interviewed in hospital following the miscarriage and then two to four months later.
The researchers found that women were more likely to say they received helpful support from friends and family.
Couples said they were most in need of support when facing a subsequent pregnancy.
Most women and more than half of their partners expected trouble, although experts say this is unlikely.
Women said that, as well as support from health workers, they wanted emotional back-up from their partners and to feel that they also "felt" the loss.
Ruth Bender Atik, director of the Miscarriage Association, said that, in many cases, doctors did not know what the exact reason for miscarriage was.
But she believes women should be given general information about why miscarriages happen and be told that it is highly unlikely that the woman will repeat the experience in her next pregnancy.
"It is not so much a question of explanations as of information," she said.
"But most women only miscarry once and this knowledge can be reassuring.
"And taking time to explain this is in itself a form of support."
She added that the situation in the UK was improving, with health workers more aware of the possible psychological impact of miscarriage.
She said the most important time for support was in the weeks immediately after a miscarriage, but added that, if the woman became pregnant again, health workers should be aware of her possible anxieties.
For example, she said, they could offer an early scan at seven to eight weeks so the woman could see the baby and be reassured that it was alright.
Studies conducted in the 1980s in New Zealand and Norway on women who had suffered recurrent miscarriages found that those offered more support and scans were more likely to carry a baby to term.
Ms Bender Atik says that support can reduce anxiety and make women feel more reassured.
As many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, mostly in the early months.
Ms Bender Atik says this statistic can be alternately reassuring and frightening.
"The next pregnancy is always tinged with anxiety, but three out of four pregnancies are okay," she stated.
The Miscarriage Association offers information about miscarriage and runs a national helpline. It can be contacted on 01924 200799.