safe motherhood



Precise statistics are hard to come by, but it is believed that as many as one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage.

Miscarriage is the loss of a baby before 24 weeks, with most occurring in the first three months. After 24 weeks, if the baby dies before or during birth, it's known as a stillbirth.

Parents who lose their baby often have a desperate need to know why it happened, but unfortunately, in many cases, there's no obvious answer. This can be very hard to accept.

Losing a baby produces a mixture of feelings - shock, numbness, anger, grief and depression. Although parents who lose babies may eventually come to accept what's happened, they may never get over it completely and find that feelings of grief well up at any time, especially around significant anniversaries.

An ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilised ovum develops outside the womb, is another form of pregnancy loss, complicated by the fact that it can be life threatening and future fertility may be affected.

A mole pregnancy, where, very rarely, the fertilised ovum fails to develop properly, is another issue again.

Pregnancy loss is a complex, multi-layered blow and responses will be different for different women.

Miscarriage can sometimes be caused by an 'incompetent' cervix - one that isn't strong enough to remain tightly closed throughout the pregnancy.

Unfortunately, this condition can't be diagnosed until a mother has already had one or more miscarriages. It can be treated in the early stages of a subsequent pregnancy by having a 'Shirodkar stitch' put in to the cervix to keep it closed. The stitch is then removed towards the end of pregnancy.

The Miscarriage Association runs a very useful helpline that can provide support and information on all pregnancy loss. Telephone: 01 924 200799.

The Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society can be contacted on: 020 7436 5881.