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Mumsnet survey reveals miscarriage care is getting worse

1 in 5 women are rating their care as poor or very poor, with longer waiting times, inadequate pain relief and little follow up care.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Nov 15, 2021

New data shows that care is getting worse for women going through miscarriage, with 1 in 5 (21%) labelling their experience as poor or very poor compared to 17% in 2019. 

This is the fifth survey run by Mumsnet of women who have suffered one miscarriage or more in the previous two years. The first survey was launched in 2011 as part of our Better Miscarriage Care campaign, which calls for a five-point code of care with: supportive staff, better access to scanning, safe and appropriate places for treatment, good information and effective treatment, and joined-up care.

More than 1 in 4 women (27%) waited three days or more for a scan after being referred, the highest rate recorded in our surveys since 2011. Similarly, just 1 in 5 women (22%) waited four hours or less, the lowest rate in 10 years. 

More than 4 in 10 women (43%) waited four days or more from the point of referral for surgical management of miscarriage to the procedure. 

Pain medication remains inadequate, especially for women treated expectantly (usually meaning miscarrying at home). Two thirds of these (66%) said they were not given adequate pain relief.  Only 15% of all women surveyed said they had received adequate pain relief. 

“I was asked to miscarry at home due to a bed shortage and told it would be like a period… The pain was worse than giving birth yet I was not prepared for this or offered any pain relief.”

61% said they were either given no or not enough information about what miscarrying at home would be like.

“I lost so much blood I had to go to A&E and be put on a drip after fainting. I was home alone as no one had advised me to have someone with me and I almost lost consciousness before I could phone for help.” 

In addition, follow-up care wasn’t there for the majority of women; 68% of women were not offered any follow-up medical care. More than 6 in 10 women (61%) said they would have benefitted from even just one session of counselling but only 13% of them were offered it. 

60% of women waited for a scan to confirm their pregnancy loss alongside women with ongoing pregnancies (a slight increase from 58% in 2019), and 58%, the same as 2019, walked through or waited in a room with women with ongoing pregnancies after having the scan that confirmed their pregnancy loss, causing considerable distress at a time of great sadness.

“I was sent home to miscarry and walked out past the newborn babies and other mothers knowing my baby would never cry. It was heartbreaking.”

Only 40% of women who miscarried in hospital described the information they were given about what would happen to the remains of the foetus as both comprehensive and compassionate (compared with 44% in 2019, 43% in 2016, 33% in 2014 and just 15% in 2011).

Three quarters of women (75%) who were treated in hospital had access to an Early Pregnancy Unit – the recommended NICE treatment path for women who miscarry - slightly less than in the two previous surveys.

More than 1 in 4 women (27%) had been contacted by someone related to their medical care who were unaware they had miscarried (2019: 24%, 2016: 36%; 2014: 33%; 2011: 29%).

More than 1 in 6 women (17%) were placed on an ordinary postnatal or prenatal ward and 1 in 10 (9%) were treated alongside women terminating their pregnancy, similar to the 2019 figures of 15% and 10% respectively. 

69% of women had asked for time off work and got it (with just 1% asking and being refused), 20% said they would have liked to take time off but didn’t feel able to ask for it. 96% of respondents supported the proposed introduction of three days of paid miscarriage leave for women who miscarry under 24 weeks and their partners (currently not covered by bereavement leave). 

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet, said:

More than 10 years of data shows that miscarriage care in the UK remains patchy and that some aspects, such as waiting times, appear to be getting worse. There’s no doubt Covid hasn’t helped but much more can be done to ensure that women's experiences aren't more distressing than they need to be at such a difficult time. It’s clear that there’s overwhelming support for miscarriage leave, which is often granted in an ad hoc way. We’d urge employers to do the right thing and formally introduce miscarriage leave to save women increased angst at already extremely difficult time.

Released on 15th November 2021. 

2021: Survey of 1,001 Mumsnet users who had experienced pregnancy loss since September 2018. Survey conducted between 20 September 2021 and 8 November 2021.

2019: Survey of 1,026 Mumsnet users who had experienced pregnancy loss since June 2016. Survey conducted between 4 December 2018 and 28 February 2019. 

2016: Survey of 692 Mumsnet users women who had experienced pregnancy loss since January 2014. Survey conducted between 21 October and 14 November 2016.

2014: Survey of 1,065 Mumsnet users who had experienced pregnancy loss since September 2011. Survey conducted between 24 April and 15 May 2014.

2011: Survey of 1,390 Mumsnet users who had experienced pregnancy loss in the last 10 years. Survey conducted between 20 September 2011 and 2 October 2011.

The data is not weighted.