This code was drawn up after extensive consultation with Mumsnetters, and professional and campaigning organisations working in this area of care. If implemented by NHS care providers, it could help to lessen the trauma of early pregnancy loss for parents.
1. Supportive staff
GPs, Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) and A&E staff should be trained in communication and listening skills (including things NOT to say to women who are miscarrying), and the psychological effects of miscarriage. Follow-up appointments and/or counselling for those who feel they need it should be routinely offered after miscarriage.
2. Access to scanning
Access to scanning facilities in the case of suspected miscarriage should be easier in cases where scanning is clinically indicated. This could mean Early Pregnancy Assessment Units (EPAUs) opening seven days a week and/or portable ultrasound and trained medical staff being available in A&E and gynaecological units. When women have miscarried at home and have experienced severe symptoms, they should be offered a scan to check that there are no ongoing complications. Where medical staff do not believe that a scan is clinically indicated, or that it would be unlikely to produce reliable results, this decision should be communicated to the patient with tact and understanding, and with a full explanation of the reasons.
3. Safe and appropriate places for treatment
Women undergoing miscarriage or suspected miscarriage should be separated from women having routine antenatal and postnatal care, or women terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Waiting times in confirmed as well as threatened pregnancy loss, but, in particular, for women who need surgery, should be kept to a minimum and not be spent in antenatal or labour ward settings.
4. Good information and effective treatment
All women experiencing miscarriage should receive clear and honest information, sympathetically delivered. Women should be given information about all the available management options – expectant, medical and surgical – and should be able, clinical considerations allowing, to choose the method of management that best suits their circumstances. Women miscarrying at home should be offered appropriate prescription pain relief. In the case of miscarriage occurring in hospital, doctors should discuss with the parents what they wish to happen to the fetus (i.e. it should not be disposed of routinely without prior consultation).
5. Joined-up care
Community midwife teams and GPs should be informed immediately when miscarriage has occurred, and subsequent bookings and scans cancelled, to avoid women who have miscarried being chased by HCPs for ‘missing’ pregnancy appointments. HCPs should be mindful of a woman’s previous miscarriage/s when assessing her needs during subsequent pregnancies, acknowledging any extra anxieties and dealing with them sympathetically.
Although this code is based mostly on the experience of Mumsnetters who have miscarried in-utero pregnancies pre-24 weeks, we think many of its points apply equally to women experiencing stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies.
The code relates directly to England and Wales, but many best practice guidelines can equally apply to Scotland.