SARAH BERRY | 28 May, 2012

It happens to one in four pregnant women in Australia. But, you wouldn’t know it because women tend to suffer it in silence.

In fact, silence means the rates of miscarriage are likely to be even higher according to Danielle Herbert, research fellow at the University of Queensland’s school of population health.
“It may happen at home and they may never report it clinically,” she says.

Also, because most miscarriages happen within the first 12 weeks, many women do not even realise they’re pregnant and, if they do, it’s likely that they haven’t shared the news. This makes it hard to then share the grief.

“Historically, people don’t talk about personal events and a norm in society is not to announce until after the first trimester,” Herbert says. “Also, couples often wish to grieve in private.”

As understandable as this is, it means many women feel alone in their ordeal and are unaware of how prevalent it is.

At 42, Sian’s risk of miscarriage verges on 50 per cent, but because women so rarely talk about it, she had no idea. “I was oblivious that miscarriage was so common and that there was such a thing,” she says.

That was until she experienced it herself. She was left devastated by two miscarriages, the second one only late last year. “I found out at the 12-week ultrasound that the baby had died,” she says. There were no symptoms. “It just sort of stopped [growing].

“It was taking [the nurse] ages to find the heart beat and I still wasn’t even worried. Then she said, ‘Look, I’m really sorry – the baby has died.'”

Sian says she was overwhelmed by a sense of shame and failure. “I felt that there was something wrong with me – that I couldn’t do something so simple. It felt like if you can’t do that, what can you do? You’ve failed.”

But, Herbert, who is a researcher on an ongoing longitudinal study tracking Australian women’s fertility, says that miscarriage is part of the biological process of pregnancy.

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