AROUND 15-20pc of pregnant women will suffer a miscarriage or preterm loss – but many feel they are not getting the support they need to cope with the tragedy.
Seven out of eight of the women who took part in the small-scale research on hospitals outside Dublin said their pregnancy loss was not openly acknowledged, publicly mourned or socially supported.
The findings point to the need for honest and sensitive communication from hospital staff in breaking bad news and providing information to women experiencing pregnancy loss, said the research team from Trinity College's School of Social Work and Social Policy.
The women highlighted:
* Lack of privacy in hospital wards and communal waiting areas.
* A need for routine follow-up psychosocial support to deal with feelings of grief.
The women in the study were all married women, aged between 30 and 42 years. Four had experienced a pregnancy loss at under 12 weeks and the others had progressed to 13 to 28 weeks.
Half of the mothers interviewed had experienced multiple pregnancy losses, said the findings in the 'British Journal of Social Work'.
"Most commented positively on the way in which doctors informed them of their loss and how other hospital staff related to them."
However, flaws were highlighted, especially in outpatient appointments. "The women described the pain of having to retell their story to various staff post-discharge."
They expressed anger at the failure of hospital staff to read their hospital chart or be fully briefed on their history.
"All mentioned the effects of the physical environment and a woman admitted to a general ward found this challenging."
One described how, on her follow-up appointment, she was surrounded by pregnant women: "You have to sit there and smile . . . I felt I couldn't cry until I got into the car."
All participants acknowledged the need for post-discharge support, with most actively expressing a desire for follow-up contact.
"Hospital practices, even in smaller rural settings, can be improved by developing modest but explicit policies which counteract this sense of disenfranchisement, offer follow-up emotional support and address problems within the hospital environment," commented Dr Trish Walsh, who supervised the research.
"At a time when our healthcare services are being rationalised and staff numbers cut, it is of vital importance that we don't forget how central psychosocial supports can be in helping people come to terms with loss.
"The absence or provision of supports in themselves affect the patient's overall experience of the hospital system. Minor changes to practice can make a world of difference."