28% of UK Adults are Unfamiliar with the Term Miscarriage 

New research commissioned by the baby charity Tommy’s has uncovered gaps in the UK public’s understanding of different types of baby loss.

Misunderstandings about miscarriage

The survey – which polled 1,001 UK adults – found that 72% of people have heard of miscarriage. However, 28% have not heard of the term, meaning those who have experienced miscarriage will often encounter people whose lack of knowledge could lead to awkward or upsetting conversations.

There was a similar picture when it came to other types of baby loss; for example, 71% have heard of stillbirths (and 29% haven’t), while less than half have heard of neonatal death.

Different types of pregnancy loss% Of respondents who have heard of each type
Premature birth70.33%
Ectopic pregnancy60.44%
Termination for medical reasons57.34%
Second trimester loss (or late miscarriage)46.05%
Neonatal death43.36%
Molar pregnancy9.39%
None of the above8.39%

A lack of confidence 

The survey revealed that even when people have heard of different terms relating to baby loss, they often lack the confidence to explain what this means. 

Less than half (42%) of UK adults said they would feel ‘very confident’ explaining what miscarriage means. In fact, more than 1 in 10 (13%) either said they were either ‘not very confident’ or ‘not at all confident’ in giving a definition of miscarriage. For terms such as neonatal death and molar pregnancy, confidence levels were a lot lower, with 44% and 41% respectively saying they would not be confident in explaining these terms.

Time to raise awareness

66% of people agree more awareness is required on the topic of ectopic pregnancy, while 65% agree more awareness is required on the topics of miscarriage and neonatal death.

Amina Hatia, qualified NHS midwife and Tommy’s Midwifery Manager, says:

“Being a kind, compassionate person is worth its weight in gold to someone who is feeling the sadness of baby loss.”

“People who have experienced loss feel guilty and at the time frustrated by how their loss affects others. They feel like they shouldn’t speak of their loss or grief because others can’t cope, or they become responsible for making you feel better when they are still grieving.”

“Learning a little about baby loss – such as the terminology of different types of baby loss and how many people are affected – can make people feel more confident when talking about this subject”

How to support someone after baby loss

What are the practical ways you can be there for someone when they need it most? Amina has shared some helpful insights on how to approach conversations around baby loss:

Avoid saying anything that expresses some sense of requirement of the bereaved person

Rather than burden a bereaved person with questions like “what do you need?”, Amina says that simple acts of kindness, like a card through the door, a takeaway voucher or a food gift, can go a long way.

The words ‘at least’ make no sense when someone has lost a baby

As Amina suggests, trying to ‘look on the bright side’ at a time when someone is experiencing unimaginable sorrow could cause greater upset – and understandably so.

Be willing to express openness and availability

By simply communicating that you’re here to listen, you may give someone the encouragement to open – should they wish to do so. Amina says it may be worthwhile to say something like, “I know that you may not want to talk about what has happened but please know that I am here to listen if you ever do”.

Where appropriate, share your own story

Amina advises that it’s important to be cautious with this approach, as everyone’s experience of loss is personal. However, there may be some value in saying something like: “I don’t know exactly what you are going through but I have gone through something similar so am here if you need me”.

Be guided by them

Ultimately, the person whose feelings matter most is the bereaved. Or as Amina says: “If they are not ready to talk, respect that.”

The full breakdown of research and Amina’s advice for talking about baby loss can be found at: https://www.tommys.org/about-us/news-views/building-awareness-about-baby-loss

Rachel Bartee

Rachel Bartee is a blogger and freelance writer dreaming of a tour round the world to write a story of her greatest life adventure. For the time being, she feels inspired by her daily yoga sessions and studies Interpersonal Relationships.