Earlier this week, I was honoured to chair a moving session at the arts festival Fertility Fest looking at miscarriage. The evening began with four artists with personal experience of miscarriage presenting their work. Julia Bueno, a psychotherapist, read a passage from her new book about miscarriage, The Brink of Being, which is published today. Visual artist Foz Foster talked about the wonderful 76 foot scroll he produced to celebrate the three children he lost through miscarriage. Finally, theatre company Open Sky, writer Lisle Turner and director Claire Coaché, showed a section of their powerful new show Cold about a couple who experience miscarriage.
After the artists had presented their work, we had a discussion session with the National Director of the Miscarriage Association, Ruth Bender Atik, and the Medical Director of Herts and Essex Fertility Clinic, David Ogutu. The discussion raised some fascinating issues, about the reality of experiencing a miscarriage which we so rarely acknowledge, about the taboos around pregnancy loss and the fact that we assume it is somehow a women’s issue. My only regret was that we ran out of time as there were so many more things we could have talked about, and we had a fabulous panel.
If you’ve been affected by miscarriage, I would recommend Julia’s new book – and if you are ever able to see Foz’s work or catch Claire and Lisle’s show, make sure you take the opportunity. Most importantly, do get in touch with the Miscarriage Association who offer both support and information. They have a factsheet written for anyone who has been through a miscarriage after fertility issues, which feel as if it is the cruellest blow. It is sometimes hard to reach out for support, but it really can make all the difference to talk to someone who understands the experience.
I was absolutely delighted to hear from the Miscarriage Association yesterday that they were launching a range of cards for people to send to friends, colleagues or family members who had experienced a miscarriage. It can be so difficult to know what to say when someone has a miscarriage, and sometimes the tendency is to just ignore it entirely if you are worried about saying something wrong or upsetting the person concerned.
In fact, although miscarriage is very common, it can be an incredibly distressing and lonely experience and most people would really welcome some recognition of what they have been through. Ruth Bender-Atik, the national director of the Miscarriage Association said, “Shockingly, greetings card retailers stock a card for almost every important life event, except one. These cards recognise miscarriage, and give words to those friends and loved ones who can’t find them. Losing a pregnancy is heart-breaking and can be very lonely. Close family and friends often don’t know what to say, say the wrong thing, or just say nothing at all. The new cards have been launched to fill that gap. They may even become a treasured memento, the acknowledgement of the briefest of lives.”
The cards have been created for the women and men who go through miscarriage, ectopic or molar pregnancy and the friends, families and colleagues who wish they knew what to say to them. The cards carry thoughtful messages, approved by a panel of women who have been through miscarriage themselves, and the details of the Miscarriage Association inside, putting help and support directly into the hands of the person who needs it the most.
The cards were launched today and are and stocked at PostMark’s London stores and online (https://postmarkonline.co.uk/). They were devised and created by creative agency MRM//McCann.
There is now a Facebook page for the Fertility Forum, the evidence-based non-commercial information day taking place in London on March 3O. You can find it here – https://www.facebook.com/events/509903912750190/ Do like the page if you have a Facebook account and share it with friends and colleagues – and come along and join us if you can! You can book here
Set up by patients working with all the professional bodies in the field, the Fertility Forum aims to be a day of pure evidence about fertility with no promotion for particular clinics or treatments, and no one selling anything. It’s all about evidence.
The Fertility Forum will take place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in London, and many of the UK’s leading fertility specialists will be speaking at the day, and there will be three strands of talks covering a huge range of topics related to fertility. You will be able to choose which talks you attend when you get your tickets. There is a charge for the tickets (£25) to cover the cost of putting on the day, but there are no additional charges.
The day has been organised by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Fertility Society working in partnership with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Fertility Network UK alongside the Association of British Andrologists, British Andrology Society, Association of Clinical Embryologists, British Infertility Counselling Association, Royal College of Nursing and the Senior Infertility Nurses Group. The Donor Conception Network will be taking part in the event along with other patient groups including the Miscarriage Association. You can find out more about the day, including the full programme of speakers, here
If you’ve ever wanted access to clear, reliable information about fertility problems and treatment, the Fertility Forum on 30 March is for you. Set up by patients working with all the professional bodies in the field, the Fertility Forum aims to be a day of pure evidence about fertility with no promotion for particular clinics or treatments, and no one selling anything. It’s all about evidence.
The Fertility Forum will take place at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in London, and many of the UK’s leading fertility specialists will be speaking at the day, and there will be three strands of talks. They will cover everything from nutrition and lifestyle advice to the latest developments in fertility treatment. There will be talks on specific fertility issues such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), on donor treatments and surrogacy, on recurrent miscarriage, on stress and fertility support, on male fertility problems and how men deal with infertility. The HFEA will give advice on how to choose a fertility clinic and there will be a talk on deciding whether to opt for treatment abroad. How embryos develop and why IVF does and doesn’t work will also be discussed along with an assessment of the evidence on additional treatments like endometrial scratch or embryo glue, and there will be a session on accessing NHS funding. You will be able to choose which talks you attend when you get your tickets. There is a charge for the tickets (£25) to cover the cost of putting on the day, but there are no additional charges.
The day has been organised by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the British Fertility Society working in partnership with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and Fertility Network UK alongside the Association of British Andrologists, British Andrology Society, Association of Clinical Embryologists, British Infertility Counselling Association, Royal College of Nursing and the Senior Infertility Nurses Group. The Donor Conception Network will be taking part in the event along with other patient groups including the Miscarriage Association. The day will be opened by the RCOG President, Professor Lesley Regan, and the Chair of the HFEA, Sally Cheshire CBE.
Miscarriage is devastating, and often women find it hard to talk about so the idea of an Instagram account for women to come together to discuss their experiences may sound slightly bizarre – but in fact, many women have found the I Had a Miscarriage Instagram pages very helpful. It was started by a psychologist, Jessica Zucker, in 2015 and already has more than 17 thousand followers. The account has become a space for women to connect, to share their feelings and to read about the experiences of others.
Losing a baby is particularly difficult if you have been through fertility problems and treatment first, and if you have personal experience of this it is always worth getting in touch with the Miscarriage Association who can provide lots of information and support. The Miscarriage Association is currently running the brilliant Simply Say campaign to help other people understand more about what to say when a friend, colleague or family member has experienced a miscarriage.
If you’ve experienced pregnancy loss or have been uncertain what to say to a friend who has had a miscarriage, the new campaign from the Miscarriage Association will be welcome. They’re aiming to help people respond to someone who has been through a miscarriage or an ectopic or molar pregnancy. Often people are so worried about saying the wrong thing that they end up trying not to talk about the miscarriage at all, which isn’t a helpful response.
The Miscarriage Association campaign is called Simply Say and aims to make it easier for people to have the conversations that they sometimes avoid. They are encouraging family, friends and colleagues to acknowledge the loss and then to listen, and the campaign aims to help them to know what to say – and what not to say.
The charity has spoken to women and their partners about the things they’ve found helpful and the things that can be particularly upsetting. They conclude that everyone is different and that it can be hard to find the right words to comfort someone, but acknowledging their loss is one way that you can help anyone who has been through this. Simply saying that you are sorry is one of the most important things you can do.
The things that can be particularly upsetting are well-meant comments which aim to put a positive spin on the experience – for example “Don’t worry, you can always have another baby” or ““It wasn’t meant to be”. For people who have had a miscarriage after spending some time trying to get pregnant, it’s the “well, at least you know now that you can get pregnant” comments which can be really hurtful. Although people may just be trying to find something positive to say, it is particularly unhelpful when you may feel that you don’t know if you will be able to get pregnant again.
The Miscarriage Association have produced an animation and infographics as well as a downloadable leaflet with more detailed information, and you can get involved in their #SimplySay campaign on social media. Do support this important campaign!
Thanks to The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman for this article about her experience of miscarriage. It is raw, honest and very moving, and she raises important questions about why it is that we don’t talk abut miscarriage. Why is it that women are often encouraged not to mention that they are pregnant until they reach 12 weeks because of the risk of miscarriage? It assumes that we would want to keep losing a baby secret, that it is something to be hidden and not talked about. For some people, this may make things easier but for many others, not being able to talk about something so heartbreaking can make it even harder to cope.
Miscarriage is devastating whenever it happens in pregnancy – and if you’ve taken time to get pregnant in the first place, it can feel even more overwhelming. If you, or anyone you know, is affected by miscarriage, the Miscarriage Association, can offer support and advice and is a really helpful source of information.
It is fabulous news that Tommy’s has opened a specialist nationalist centre to investigate the causes of miscarriage. Miscarriage is far more common than many of us realise and all too often women are told that investigations can only be carried out after they’ve been through three miscarriages. This is traumatic for anyone, but it is particularly difficult for a fertility patient who will first need to be lucky enough to get pregnant three times, only to lose their very precious pregnancy.
The new centre is going to be the biggest centre in Europe and will be dedicated to preventing early miscarriage. Three universities have joined together to run specialist clinics which will be part of the centre – the University of Birmingham, the University of Warwick, and Imperial College London. It is hoped that 24,000 women a year will be able to access the support offered and to take part in the research studies.
The statistics on miscarriage are stark – 200,000 mothers and their partners are affected every year with 85% of miscarriages occurring within the first 12 weeks. You can find out more about the pioneering new national centre here. If you have personal experience of miscarriage after fertility problems, you find the Miscarriage Association leaflet on Fertility problems and pregnancy loss helpful
I’ve only just seen this incredibly moving article in The Guardian about the experience of miscarriage – you don’t need to have been through the loss of a pregnancy yourself to empathise with this piece. It does make you think about how little other people appreciate or understand what it feels like to lose a baby – especially when this happens more than once. Well worth reading – thanks Amy for writing it.