Anxiety about miscarriage has risen by 33% over the past 10 years – so is it time to change the conversation?

There’s no scientific evidence that the rate of miscarriage is increasing, so why does our MadeForMums survey of 3,000 parents show we’re worrying more about it? Here’s what our research revealed and why we believe we need to keep talking but shift the story...

Woman looking at horizon after miscarriage
  • Anxiety about miscarriage during pregnancy has risen by 33% over the past 10 years, according to our survey
  • There’s no published evidence that the rate of miscarriage has increased – it’s estimated that around 1 in 4 of pregnancies end in miscarriage
  • The good news is that 91% of those who’d miscarried subsequently had a baby or were currently pregnant
  • Pregnancy tests are being used in a new way – not just to confirm Am I pregnant – but to keep checking Am I’m STILL pregnant
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MadeForMums is 10 years old this year. We wanted to find out how parenting experiences have changed over the past 10 years and surveyed more than 3,000 parents who’d been pregnant between 2009 and 2019.

Our survey* showed that parents are feeling 11% more confident overall about their pregnancy in 2019 compared to 10 years ago.

But then we made a worrying discovery. Anxiety during pregnancy about miscarriage has increased by 33% since 2009. And yet there isn’t any scientific indication that miscarriage rates are increasing.

Expectant parents are 33% more anxious about miscarriage during pregnancy compared with 10 years ago - yet feel more confident about pregnancy overall
MadeForMums 10 years survey, June 2019

So why are we more anxious about miscarriage?

We interviewed experts and ran a second survey to find out more about our miscarriage experiences and worries, talking to another thousand parents. Our research confirmed a big change when it comes to miscarriage: we’ve become more open about it over the past decade. We’re discussing it with more people. We also spend much more time on social media, where stories of miscarriage are frequently shared.

“There probably is a much greater awareness of miscarriage now,” says Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of the Miscarriage Association. “The Miscarriage Association and other groups that focus on miscarriage in their campaigns have worked hard in recent years to increase awareness of how common miscarriage actually is and to dispel the idea that miscarriage is something we shouldn’t discuss.”

Sad couple worrying about miscarriage

Family GP Dr Philippa Kaye agrees. “We are talking more about miscarriage, which means that women may feel more comfortable coming forward and sharing their own experiences. As the taboo, slowly slowly, begins to be broken down more women are being brave and speaking about it.”

At MadeForMums we strongly believe talking more openly about miscarriage is a GOOD thing... but could this also make us more anxious?

Breaking the taboo – but increasing the worry?

At MadeForMums we strongly believe this is a GOOD thing but could this positive step also have made us more anxious? Does knowing more about something mean we worry more? “I think there’s a lot of awareness around miscarriage in early pregnancy so I felt on edge with every possible symptom,” one mum told us.

Or do we just feel more comfortable admitting our anxiety?

“It’s understandable that once people are more aware of miscarriage they might be more anxious abut it when they get pregnant,” explains Ruth Bender Atik from the Miscarriage Association. “But I think this finding probably also shows that people are more comfortable talking about miscarriage, which is a good thing.”

One mum-to-be explained how seeing miscarriage posts on social made her feel: “I felt anxious that it seemed common but it also helped my anxiety that people were talking openly about it.”

Miscarriage in the media

Our survey certainly showed that miscarriage stories on social and in the media do raise anxiety levels for half of expectant parents.

83% had seen miscarriage information on social media

  • The impact:
    • 51% felt more anxious
    • 40% were unaffected
    • 9% felt less anxious

75% had seen miscarriage information in the media, on TV or YouTube

  • The impact:
    • More than half (55%) felt more anxious
    • 35% were unaffected
    • 10% felt less anxious

The birth of rainbow babies

But we believe there’s more to this story that we should be telling.

We discovered that 68% of parents who’d miscarried had subsequently had a baby and 23% were now pregnant.

Rainbow-baby
One of our forum Rainbow Babies

We should be talking more about the success stories of babies born after a previous miscarriage. They even have a name – rainbow babies – a term that has soared in use in the past few years.

We’ve discovered these good news stories can reduce anxiety: 28% felt less anxious after seeing rainbow baby stories on social media. That’s three times more than those who saw social stories focused on miscarriage.

68% of parents who’d miscarried had subsequently had a baby and 23% were now pregnant.
MadeForMums miscarriage survey, Aug 2019

“I love seeing people with healthy babies after previous miscarriage and hard journeys to pregnancy. It helped me keep going when I was going through IVF,” one mum told us.

“It gave me hope that if the worst happened there was light beyond it,” said another.

Of course, experiencing miscarriage is devastating and can have a life-lasting impact, and we can’t, nor should we try, to diminish this. But with our evidence suggesting that stories of birth after miscarriage can reduce anxiety, we’re calling for more awareness of this other side of baby loss.

A new use for pregnancy tests

The other thing we found is that parents are resourceful. Many have found their own DIY way of reducing worry about losing their pregnancy.

Pregnancy-test-1

Pregnancy tests are now being used not just to find out if you’re pregnant, but also for several weeks afterwards to check you’re STILL pregnant. Our results showed that over the past decade, using more than one test during pregnancy has increased confidence by 9%.

And we are using a lot of pregnancy tests:

78% expectant parents use more than 1 pregnancy test per pregnancy. 22% use more than 5
MadeForMums miscarriage survey, Aug 2019

Why? A third of those who use more than 1 pregnancy test do so because they’re worried they aren’t pregnant anymore.

Perhaps most surprising is that while 24% worried because of specific symptoms, such as bleeding or cramping, a much higher percentage (38%) worried because they just didn’t ‘feel’ pregnant.

The timing twist of not feeling pregnant

In these early weeks of pregnancy, when symptoms vary and come and go, when you can’t feel your baby kick or see a growing bump, we’re also aware that this is the time of highest risk of miscarriage. It’s a cruel twist of timing and may explain this fear that ‘not feeling pregnant’ may mean not being pregnant.

“My anxiety came from not knowing how to tell if my baby was OK,” revealed one mum.

Share with us…

There is no easy reassurance – the stats are the stats – but there’s also hope. So let’s keep sharing our stories – yes, of baby loss because it’s important that we don’t keep these experiences hidden away and we can support each other. But also of life and birth after miscarriage. We’ll certainly be sharing as many as we can and we hope you join us.

If you want to share your thoughts or your rainbow baby stories, let us know in the comments below, in our forum, or on our Instagram or Facebook pages. We’d love to hear from you.

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*Survey 1 – Changing experiences of parenting over the past 10 years: 3,011 completed surveys of parents in the UK with children aged 10 or under or parents-to-be, June 2019
**Survey 2 – Miscarriage experiences over 10 years: 1049 completed surveys of parents in the UK with children aged 10 or under or parents-to-be, August 2019

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