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scottish care & information on miscarriage

Save Woman From Even More Baby Loss Misery

Sunday August 5, 2012

By Greg Christison

Mothers-to-be who suffer a miscarriage should automatically be offered an investigation by doctors instead of having to wait until after the third one, MSPs are to be told.

Under current NHS policy, women in Scotland must lose an unborn child on three consecutive occasions before medics can begin to test for any underlying conditions.

However, campaigners say this approach can be “devastating” for would-be parents and leads to unnecessary suffering – as well as failing to prevent many avoidable deaths.

Around one in seven pregnancies ends in miscarriage, with the latest statistics showing there were almost 6,000 in Scotland in 2010.

However, many believe this number could be significantly reduced if women were given more information following their first miscarriage.

Support group Scottish Care and Information on Miscarriage (SCIM) has now lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament urging ministers and health boses to change course.

The women themselves take a long time to recover from miscarriage, and they are just being asked to try again. I don’t think that is very supportive – it has an absolutely devastating effect. - Senior counsellor with SCIM Maureen Sharkey

Maureen Sharkey, senior counsellor with SCIM, said: “The current policy means that a woman could have five miscarriages and if they aren’t consecutive then the NHS won’t test.

“It might well be the case that it comes down to expense, but there is also a huge cost to the women that are affected by this.

“The women themselves take a long time to recover from miscarriage, and they are just being asked to try again. I don’t think that is very supportive – it has an absolutely devastating effect.

“Even to the extent that some women, who know the current policy, say that there is no way that they could go through it all again.

“Some women are left suicidal by their experience, by others suffer loss of confidence and depression, sleeping problems and anger management issues.

“Why wouldn’t you want to test these women to tell them what is going on? It could be something that could be resolved.”

Lorna Harris, from Glasgow, who lost three babies within the space of a year, agreed that changes must be made to the NHS guidelines.

The 29-year-old teacher and her engineer husband Adam, 31, suffered their first miscarriage in April last year, before losing a second baby in September and a third in December.

The couple insist that they felt pressured to try for the third in an attempt to spark an inquiry into the recurrent problems.

Mrs Harris told the Sunday Express: “It is devastating when you lose a baby, I don’t think people can fully understand unless they’ve been through it themselves. It takes over your whole life and everybody else feels helpless because nobody can do anything to make it better.

“I was quite shocked when there was no investigation, they don’t do any testing on the foetus and that was really upsetting.

“They said that unless I had three, they wouldn’t do any tests. The not knowing just makes you more anxious, I think it would be reassuring for people to be told why their baby was unable to develop.

“I just wanted to get pregnant three times so I could get tested, I felt under pressure.”

Mrs Harris – who is still trying for a baby – believes SCIM’s suggestion would benefit women across the country.

She added: “My tests haven’t shown up anything, which is reassuring in a way – it makes me less anxious.

“But other people do have things identified which are quite easily treated like a blood clotting issue or something.

“I’m in support of the petition that has been put forward, it would really make a difference.”

Approximately one in 100 couples experience recurrent miscarriages, but the NHS says that in most cases those who suffer one or two miscarriages will go on to have a successful pregnancy the next time.

As in Mrs Harris’s case, almost half of those investigated never receive a clear finding into why they miscarried.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the petition would be considered carefully but defended the current policy.

He explained: “It is distressing for any woman to suffer a miscarriage and that is why every effortis made to ensure that women in this situation receive appropriate follow up care.

“Clinicians follow national guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the investigation and treatment of couples with three or more first-trimester miscarriages, or one or more second-trimester miscarriages.”

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