Miscarriage - why is treatment sometimes so bad?

When things go wrong, my first instinct is to come out fighting, generally in a loud and ranty way which I have had to learn to tone down over the years. A soft answer turneth away wrath, or at any rate is often more likely to get you what you want. That sort of thing.

So why didn't I protest after my first miscarriage; when the care I received was variable, and certainly in the case of my GP, incredibly insensitive? Who decided it "not relevant" for me to be told the sex of my baby (which, after a baby is born whole at 16 weeks is completely obvious), nor "relevant" for me to be told the results of the post mortem. Why, when basically told to go away and shut up, did I do precisely that? When told by friends and relations to complain, shrivel up and say no?

Because I quite simply couldn't, is the answer. I was wracked by guilt and grief. During my stay in hospital, I'd made several (unsuccessful) attempts to find out about the baby I'd had. When I came out, I girded myself to have another go with the GP, and it failed. I retreated into a dark cave of misery and loss, and there I stayed for quite some time. Neither my husband nor I had the mental energy to complain about the GP or any of our other treatment. We wanted to try and look forward, not back. There was no support; we had to find our own way back to a life of  relative normality.

When I was pregnant again, it was very hard to look back at what had happened before. I wanted to concentrate all my energies and hope on the new life. Allied to the day-to-day fear, every single day of my new pregnancy, about what might happen (and I was an early and frequent bleeder in all my pregnancies, which kept me teetering and on edge for months on end), I found it impossible to summon up the mental energy to try and put right what had happened to me before.

Many of my friends were trying to get pregnant, or pregnant themselves. How many of them mentioned miscarriage? Did I? People don't want to talk about it: most especially those to whom it might happen. There's a sort of sympathetic magic at work here, I think: if you even mention the word, it might happen to you. In the cold light of day, this is a completely ludicrous fear. Why would even mentioning the word make you miscarry? But it doesn't mean you don't think that way.

When I was asked to chair a conference by the Miscarriage Society, I was just pregnant for the fifth time, and I remember my first reaction was to panic and want to say no, just in case the very fact I was there made me miscarry.

I got over it, but it was a bit of a battle. Even when I was there, on the platform, introducing people and listening to the presentations, every now and then that little thought would creep in. "You could be making the worst happen by being here." And I am supposed to be a sane and sensible woman, educated to be rational.

Needless to say, nothing happened. My daughter survived her mother's fears, and arrived hale, hearty and with an obvious and steely determination right from day one.

I am particularly struck, with the Care Quality Commission's report on the treatment of the elderly in hospital in the news, with the similarities in what is experienced. The elderly can't fight their corner; neither, for different reasons, can miscarrying women and their partners. In both cases, what rushes in to fill that vacuum is not necessarily good.

Kindness doesn't cost anything. The good things I remember about my miscarriages are the people who found a few minutes to be kind. It doesn't cost anything for someone to say they're sorry. It only takes a little time. Whilst how nurses are trained is being examined, compassion for all should be at the heart of it, not just those who are young and able to fight their corner.  The grief-stricken generally can't fight theirs.  That's why the Mumsnet Code of Care for Miscarriage is so important.

As Salt & Caramel said:
It is becoming clear what the most important thing for these women is, and it is not immediate access to expensive scanning equipment (although that would be jolly nice) nor is it purpose built “miscarriage wards” as some commentators seem to think we want.
It is kindness. From the nurses, doctors and other health care workers.
Care doesn't have to be bad. The NHS can get it right, and did, for Kirsty. There are good models of care, like the one experienced here, which I've read several times with awe, and thankfulness that it can be got right.

Please, support the Mumsnet Campaign for Better Miscarriage Care.
  • Lobby your MP to support the Early Day motion. 
  • If you're on Facebook or Twitter, link to this blog or any of the others on the bloghop below
  • Tweet using the #miscarriagecare hashtag. Follow @mumsnettowers
  • Add your blog to the blog hop.
And talk about it.


Val said…
Thank you for being brave enough and kind enough. to share your (and your families)experiences...many things/most things do not have a chance to change or improve if they remain hidden from view and avoided in discussion. It seems to me that extra unnecessary pain which is usually inflicted because of ignorance can only be reduced and hopefully removed with open discussion...common sense attitudes and natural kindness can be uncommon and absent but only by education (in the sense of sharing different experiences) is it possible to highlight how much difference even small changes in attitudes and choice of words can make and if it doesn't come natural...there is no reason for it not to be taught.
I was lucky, my Grandmother (who lived long ago)was not...for our daughters & their partners (and everyone elses daughters too) we need to do better and talking about such tragically painful events can be a good starting place for change.

with love
Jane Badger said…
Thank you Val - you are right. We need to talk about it for our daughters' sakes, and everyone else's daughters too.
Anonymous said…
I miscarried yesterday and I to am a rational educated woman whose experience was made significantly wiser by the appalling care I received from the ward I was on. No compassion, a doctor reading texts on his phone while taking notes and belching throughout the consultation and an anaesthetist who asked why I was crying, and when I told her she said nothing. She then asked why was I on folic acid, was I trying for a baby? I told the ward nurse I found them to be emotionless and it had made the situation worse and she said 'but we will bring you a leaflet soon'. I have heard about lack of compassion in the nhs but I never ever believed it to be true. I assumed people had misinterpreted attitudes. I am shocked. The worse thing is I am a nurse, in that very hospital, but working for the mental health services. I am the same grade as a ward sister and I will do my absolute best to ensure that no one else had to endure this treatment.
Jane Badger said…
Dear Anon - I am so very sorry for what you've gone through. You are very brave to write when you are still feeling so raw. I so wish that the callousness you met with had not happened, and it must make it all the worse to have it happen in your own hospital. It is utterly grim. I know a virtual hug is not the same as a real one, but please have one. I wish I could make it better for you. I'm going to be offline for the next couple of days as I'm moving house, but do go over to Mumsnet if you're not already. There is a huge amount of support there.

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