How hospitals are adding trauma to the experience of miscarriage and pregnancy loss

How hospitals are adding trauma to the experience of miscarriage and pregnancy loss

Samantha Payne

This week, the Pink Elephants Support Network socials blew up – we clearly hit a nerve.

Hundreds of women shared their recent experiences in hospitals where their miscarriage had been medically managed but their emotional needs were not met.

Instead, trauma was added to their experience time and time again because no one has thought to change the system to be more inclusive of the needs of those who are grieving the very real and often heartbreaking loss of their baby. 

“The worst experience was waking up from my D&C to hear someone’s baby crying after a C-Section, meanwhile mine was taken away. That is probably the worst part for me.”

“Sitting waiting for an ultrasound to confirm I was miscarrying. I was surrounded by pregnant women and had a really hard time keeping it together.”

For eight years I’ve been advocating for the needs of women and their families impacted by early pregnancy loss, miscarriage and termination for medical reasons. Whilst there is hope that some things are changing, one part that isn’t happening quick enough is the experience of women in our healthcare system.

I can’t even begin to share each and every experience I have heard over the years of a similar vein, women waking up on maternity wards after they have just had a D&C procedure that removes their baby, women waiting for ultrasounds to confirm they are miscarrying amongst other women with round tummies full of life. 

“I was left to bleed in the E.D waiting area for 5 hours as I wasn’t a priority as ‘it’ (my baby) was just a miscarriage.” 

I myself had my genetics counselling appointment at a major metropolitan hospital in 2020. I waited in the same area I had been a few weeks earlier to confirm my baby had died, in a waiting room full of happy expectant parents waiting for routine antenatal scans and appointments.

Surrounded by the life you have lost is one of the cruellest experiences I have ever experienced. I left that appointment and bumped into my heavily pregnant sister going in for her routine appointment. We were meant to have cousins born close together, playmates forever, instead I was a griefy mess trying to hold it together and show her excitement for her baby.

I can’t tell you what I would have given for a back door entrance/exit at that point to avoid the endless triggers. The irony is that just a couple of years later back at the same hospital to birth our rainbow baby, we both had Covid and the hospital easily found us a back exit/entrance. So please don’t tell me it can’t be done, it can. 

“Sitting in the prenatal waiting area after being told I needed another D&C for a second miscarriage and hearing the babies and seeing the other mothers is just so hard.” 

For too long, miscarriage has been pervasively accepted as ‘nature’s way’ and there has been an acceptance that women just get on with it in private. This is a dangerous false narrative that only serves to isolate women in their grief and disenfranchise their grief. Because of this ‘pervasive acceptance’ the needs of women and their partners dealing with pregnancy loss have never really been considered in hospital or other healthcare settings.

What we are seeing now is a generation of women not willing to accept the status quo and the added trauma of seriously lacking in compassionate care experiences in our healthcare system. Enough is enough, it is not ok to expect us to wait in antenatal waiting areas or wake up on maternity wards, we need and deserve better. 

“I have been there twice and was meant to do it a third time and just couldn’t bring myself to be in the birthing unit hearing the sounds of crying babies…it’s cruel.” 

As with many women’s health issues, our experiences have been subject to significant medical misogyny and neglect of care to understand the true impact. It has clearly been proven through research that pregnancy loss induces an intense period of emotional distress and women need support, empathy and understanding to navigate this emotional distress and bereavement without being triggered by the very thing they have lost in a space that is supposed to care for them. 

Women are waiting for a procedure to remove their precious baby in a bed next to a woman about to have a C-Section to deliver their healthy baby. Could there be a crueller juxtaposition? 

A recent article from the UK Stylist publication is lobbying for separate bereavement spaces for women who miscarry in NHS hospitals in the U.K. We believe the same is needed here in Australia. 

I’m pleased to report that the current Government and the Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney convened a round table last year discussing the experience of miscarriage, the first of its kind here in Australia. I am hopeful we are finally being heard but we need to continue to share to raise awareness and keep up the momentum and clear call for change from the estimated 100,000 – 150,000 women and families who miscarry each year. Don’t get me started on this number being a guestimate. We don’t keep a national record of the number of early pregnancy losses in Australia, which speaks volumes in itself. 

As always, Pink Elephants are here for you. We provide a circle of support for those impacted by pregnancy loss, TFMR and/or miscarriage. You have told us that the support for your experience of miscarriage from the health system is primarily medical and lacks acknowledgement of the emotional distress at the time and into the future.

Pink Elephants are advocating for a new approach to ensure all people who experience early pregnancy loss, and those who provide care for them understand how to provide emotional support and resources and referral to Pink Elephants if appropriate.

If you are working in a hospital or have had an awful experience at a hospital and want to advocate for change, please head to this page on our website and we can send a resource that can be distributed to your hospital to communicate the need for change and what can be done. 

For support head to

Image: Founder and CEO of the Pink Elephants Support Network Samantha Payne.


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