Registering the death of a loved one can be part of the grieving process for those coming to terms with loss, but this stage isn’t available for those who experience miscarriage.
The UK doesn’t record miscarriages on a national register, but campaigners and bereaved parents are calling for that to change.
The pregnancy charity, Tommy’s, is petitioning for the government to formally register miscarriages, as it would other deaths.
CEO Jane Brewin tells HuffPost UK that the current lack of system is limiting research, as well as contributing towards miscarriage stigma.
“Our research estimates that one in four of us will have a miscarriage at some point in our lives – that’s hundreds of thousands of couples enduring this heartbreak every year – but currently we don’t keep national records of these losses,” she says.
“This means the scale of the problem is hidden, and tackling it is not prioritised. With no benchmark to improve from, how can we know if all our efforts to prevent miscarriage are working? The lack of records also reinforces the message grieving parents hear all too often: that miscarriage is ‘just one of those things’, not to be reported or discussed, shrouded in secrecy and shame.”
According to new research by the charity, only 29% of the general public are aware of this as an issue, which can add to the sense of isolation people feel after miscarriage.
It felt as though our miscarriage only existed or mattered to us.Ben and Bophanie Lancaster
Ben Lankester, 37, from London, and his wife, Bophanie, 35, are supporting the campaign. They experienced two missed miscarriages in August and December 2020, and were “devastated” when they found out they wouldn’t be formally registered or included on their medical records. It added trauma at an already difficult time, they say, because “the loss felt disregarded”.
“For parents to experience whatever they viewed their miscarriage as – the loss of a pregnancy, a baby, a child or a dream – and for it not to be acknowledged or taken into account officially felt so jarring and as if our experience did not matter,” they tell HuffPost in a joint email.
“As a couple grieving, it felt as though it should be treated as any other death or loss would be. Instead, we had to advocate for ourselves when we were at our most vulnerable, needing to correct people on how many losses we had had – without official record, it felt as though our miscarriage only existed or mattered to us.”
The couple, who work together at the creative studio, The Progress Film Company, have created a short film, titled ‘Who’s Counting?’, to raise awareness of the issue in the hope that “one day, all miscarriages are counted”.
Until recently, people in some parts of England have only qualified for support and care after they’ve had three miscarriages in a row. Tommy’s successfully campaigned against this and new RCOG guidelines and NICE guidelines state that people should be able to access help after the first loss.
But the charity does not think the changes go far enough. In lieu of a government-run register for miscarriage, the charity has created an online record for everyone going through miscarriage in the UK.
“Finding out exactly how many losses happen in the UK will help accelerate research, improve care, and ultimately save babies’ lives,” says Brewin. “We believe that every loss is one too many and every voice needs to be heard – so if you or someone you know has experienced the heartbreak of miscarriage, make sure that’s counted by signing our new record of loss.”
Help and support:
Sands works to support anyone affected by the death of a baby.
Tommy’s fund research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and provide pregnancy health information to parents.
Saying Goodbye offers support for anyone who has suffered the loss of a baby during pregnancy, at birth or in infancy.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.