New Research On Women's Experiences Following A Miscarriage
Researchers at Lancaster University have found that nearly one third of women who have miscarried suffer from depression following the loss of their baby and that there are deficiencies in health care for women who have experienced a miscarriage.
The research, which was conducted jointly by a team of medical researchers from Lancaster University and the Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust, contacted 100 women who had miscarried to determine both the emotional impact of the miscarriage and the women's views of the care they received. In-depth questionnaires were completed at both 1 and 8 weeks after the miscarriage and some women were interviewed individually.
Among the findings of the research team were:
- 1 in 3 women were identified as having psychiatric symptoms which were severe enough to receive a diagnosis of anxiety or depression. Single females were more vulnerable to these symptoms.
- Dissatisfaction with the current organisation of follow-up procedures post miscarriage. The women interviewed felt that these should be organised for them, rather than left for them to organise.
- Women felt that explanations for their miscarriage were inadequate.
- The need for more relevant information and at a time which was meaningful.
- Women felt that their miscarriage was trivialised or 'normalised' in that as miscarriage is a common medical problem it was too often dismissed as 'happening all the time'.
- Feelings of guilt by the women - over the possibility that they might be in some way responsible for the miscarriage and that they then felt responsible for letting people down.
- Significant variability in the quality of the advice, support and attitudes from health professionals, their friends and family.
- A wide range of improvements were suggested such as the identification of the health visitor as the key carer/leader in post-miscarriage care and the formalisation of follow-up procedures.
After the research was completed, the main conclusions were fed back to small groups of related health care staff (GPs, health visitors, district nurses) for discussion and consideration. Many of the views and recommendations of the women were endorsed by these focus groups.
Dr Mike Wong, research fellow in psychology at Lancaster University and a local GP, who lead the research team commented: 'There is a high emotional and psychiatric impact following miscarriage including depression yet despite this, there seems to be a range of issues which are not being adequately addressed. These tend to centre on issues of communication between health care professionals staff and women who have miscarried. In addition there are a number of small changes which could be made - such as the more effective management of post-miscarriage care - which would help the health profession to identify mental illness following miscarriage.'
Dr. Trevor Crawford, Director of Mental Health & Neural Systems Research Unit at Lancaster University said 'We are extremely grateful to the women who took part in this study as it has given us some important insights into how local services can be improved and how local health care staff can be more aware of the feelings of women who have experienced a miscarriage.'
The research will be published in September in the British Journal of General Practice.