Sunday, June 10, 2007

Miscarriage misery

Linda O'Donoghue knows all too well the pain of miscarrying a pregnancy, so another high-profile case is re-opening an old wound.

O'Donoghue, who was 18 weeks pregnant, suffered a miscarriage in April. Since she wasn't bleeding and considered a low priority the Calgary Health Region sent her home and told her to come back in a week to 10 days.

"It was horrible, disrespectful, very cruel and psychologically damaging. A baby is dead. I found it very upsetting I was considered a low priority because I wasn't bleeding," O'Donoghue says.

When O'Donoghue returned for surgery to remove the dead fetus, she ended up bleeding badly.

Beyond the calls for improved health services lies another question: How do these women cope with a miscarriage?

Lucy Pascal, a co-ordinator for the Pregnancy and Infancy Loss program through the CHR, says the experience varies from woman to woman.

"I think there are different situations that can have an effect. In those situations where the loss is public and the woman feels humiliated, then one's ability to cope decreases. It adds to the trauma of the situation to have to deal with it so publicly," Pascal says.

It's estimated between 10% to 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.

While higher maternal age, smoking, drinking and other factors can raise the risk of miscarriage, often the cause is unknown.

Pascal says about three-quarters of women who miscarry consider it as the loss of a child. They need to feel that others view their loss as important.

"Some of these women started a relationship with their baby when they were a child themselves, with their hopes and dreams of having children. And then getting married and talking about kids.

"It's something that starts a lot sooner than conception for some women. That's why these women need society to acknowledge their loss to help with their grieving process."

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