Self-help groups for women who have experienced a miscarriage are to be established in the north for the first time ever. The Miscarriage Association, a national charity, hopes that the launch of a group in Wakefield and North Kirklees next month - and in Manchester and Newcastle later in the year - will start up a regional network for the 25% of pregnant women who each year miscarry before the foetus or embryo is capable of surviving independently.
In November 2006 Ashley Power was 19 years old and living in Wakefield. She and her partner were looking forward to their first child in June the following year. They had just started telling close relatives the good news when internal bleeding saw her rushed to hospital.
Already fearing the worst Ashley was “left shocked when the nurses told me, after conducting an ultra-sound scan that they couldn’t detect any signs I was still pregnant.”
Concerned that the teenager had experienced an ectopic pregnancy, where pregnancy occurs outside the uterus and within the Fallopian [or pregnancy] tubes resulted in Ashley needing surgery, as a damaged tube can be fatal. She nearly didn’t survive, a defibrillator being needed to restart her heart, and even though she has not been left with any lasting health problems she said “I was left wondering what had made me miscarry especially as the baby had just sort of disappeared and no-one could properly explain to me what had happened. It left me feeling confused and emotionally damaged.”
Searching for someone to talk to about her experiences was difficult. Her mother had been terrified by the near loss of her daughter and her partner found it almost impossible to discuss the traumatic affair, preferring to concentrate on a possible new arrival after Ashley became pregnant a few months later. Her close friends were more interested in partying and looking for work and/or a place at University.
“I suffered in silence and whilst I have coped it wasn’t easy” she says and although she knows that many people believe that before 20 weeks it “wasn’t a baby” she doesn’t, despite no religious beliefs, feel that to be case and every year she lights a candle on November 30th for “the little girl I lost.”
Earlier this year, and now 24 years old with two girls aged two and four, she began volunteering at the Wakefield offices of the Miscarriage Association. She’s one of four telephone support workers, all volunteers, who answer calls, offer advice and empathise
with women who have miscarried. Partners who need help are also welcome to call.
The Miscarriage Association itself largely relies on volunteers; its six full-time staff being dwarfed by the 130 trained volunteers doted across the country. In addition to making a range of leaflets available to, amongst others, GP surgeries and midwives the Association organises an on-line support forum and has a website.
|Ashley and Iain|
Although they’ve previously helped with the creation of local groups in four locations, including Chester, the Association has stayed shy of itself developing such groups until now. In January Iain Solanki-Willats, a former teacher with a background in community development that includes work in Northern Ghana, was employed on the Supporting local care project that has received funding from the Department of Health.
His brief is to get people in local areas affected by miscarriage to help others experiencing pregnancy loss, something he and his wife have personal knowledge of.
Swindon and Wakefield, where the Association has good links with GPs and midwives were chosen to kick start the project. In West Yorkshire a date has been fixed for the initial meeting after the first wave of volunteers completed their training. They include Ashley Power who said: “I am more than happy to get involved as I feel my previous experiences can help those going through something similar today including the grief of losing a baby you were already emotionally attached to and looking forward to see.”
Solanki-Willats is looking for volunteers to help with the organising of new groups, which will be open to women and their partners. Contact him on 01924 360769 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on this and the meeting in Wakefield.