Miscarriage Research: The Lancet

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:01 pm on 17th June 2021.

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Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:01 pm, 17th June 2021

I would like to thank Mr Speaker, through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing parliamentary time on this important topic in this Adjournment debate on miscarriage. I wanted to bring to the Chamber’s attention the recent series of papers published in The Lancet entitled “Miscarriage matters” and the petition by Tommy’s on support for women after miscarriages. The petition currently has over 170,000 signatories.

I know that this topic is often one that is difficult to talk about, but I hope that by giving the Chamber an opportunity to hear some of the experiences and latest research, this debate can act as a catalyst for change for miscarriage services in the upcoming women’s health strategy. For too long, miscarriage has been a taboo, and I was disappointed that while the press release on the women’s health strategy call for evidence mentioned breaking taboos, it did not mention miscarriages directly—only pregnancy-related issues.

I am so pleased that prominent women, like Meghan Markle and Myleene Klass, have been brave enough to speak and break the taboo about their experiences. Miscarriage is little spoken about but incredibly common. One in four pregnancies is thought to end in miscarriage. The research suggests that 15% of recognised pregnancies around the world end in miscarriage—that is 23 million a year or 44 miscarriages a minute. Black mothers face a 40% higher relative risk than white mothers and the risk of miscarriages is lowest between the ages of 20 and 29, but goes up threefold by 40 and fivefold by 45. Unfortunately, I think that this commonality and the well-known challenges in women’s health have meant that services are not always set up in the best interests of women. Miscarriages are often a symptom of an underlying health condition. They should not just be seen as a fact of life, and I am concerned that this attitude speaks to wider gendered inequalities in our society.

I shared my own experience in a Westminster Hall debate last year and I have been overwhelmed by families contacting me to share their experiences. I have heard from women who have never told anyone but their partners that they have experienced a miscarriage and women who have experienced this 30 years ago still carrying the hurt, and now, some are seeing their children going through exactly the same issues. Although I spoke of my loss to highlight the impact of the pandemic, what is clear to me is that, covid or not, there are some huge holes—sometimes voids—in the care provided. Some people are lucky enough to have access to fantastic services and early pregnancy units. Others attend their GPs and others end up at A&E. Unfortunately, some attitudes seem to be very, very prevalent both in society and in some health services.