Petition plea: Women who suffer miscarriage or stillbirth deserve better care

Quotes from change.org comments via Ms Fujto’s "Better care in hospitals for women who are experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth" petition. Artwork by Nikki Deane.
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Hospital policies on how to care for women after a miscarriage or stillbirth desperately need improvement. Placing them with new mothers and babies just causes unnecessary grief, Nikki Deane reports.

A Victorian woman has petitioned the Australian Department of Health for better treatment in hospitals for women who have miscarried or lost their baby through stillbirth. 

Since the beginning of May, the change.org petition has received more than 400 signatures, with many people sharing traumatic hospital experiences and calling for action.

Sherrie Fujto said she started the petition after a miscarriage when, while waiting for surgery, she was placed in the same waiting room as women admitted for C-sections.

I remember staring out the hospital window with tears built up in my eyes … it was hard sitting there knowing they will be holding their babies by the end of the day, where I will be going home with no baby and empty.

She said she had heard many similar experiences from others on a Facebook support group she was a member of.

The Parliament of Australia addressed Australia’s high rates of miscarriage and stillbirth in the 2020 International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day press release.

“In 2018, 2419 lives were lost due to stillbirth or newborn death, and it is estimated that one in four pregnancies result in miscarriage—that is 103,000 every year,” the remembrance announcement said.

Being around other pregnant women and newborns in the hospital was “extremely difficult” and caused emotional distress, Ms Fujto said.

“Give them separate waiting rooms, recovery rooms and wards … away from newborns and new mothers,” she said.

Petition plea: Women who suffer miscarriage or stillbirth deserve better care
Lead petitioner Sherrie Fujto is urging the Department of Health to take action. Picture by Nikki Deane.

Tahlia Adamson, who signed the petition, said both she and her sister had similar experiences.   

“I have been through the experience of miscarriage … then been put into the maternity ward to recover, and it was the last thing I needed to add to my grief,” she said.

“My sister went through an ectopic loss in the same hospital … she stayed for nearly a week in the maternity ward.”

Seeing people welcome new life into the world and celebrate while she was going through the darkest time of her life was extremely hard and preventable.

Gold Coast University Hospital registered nurse Lauren Heffernan said there were separate areas at her hospital, and it and should be mandatory in all Australian hospitals.

“We have a ward at GCUH for early pregnancy loss … it’s completely separate to the birthing suits,” she said.

“It’s important to keep them separate. As a mother and a nurse, I can imagine how traumatic this type of situation would be.”

The grief of losing a baby would be compounded if they were surrounded by other mothers giving birth and newborns.

Ms Heffernan said women should have access to separate wards rather than being surrounded by other women and their babies.

“These wards should be mandatory and exist in every hospital to assist in the emotional and physical recovery of women who have suffered from a loss.”  

International journal Obstetrics & Gynaecology reported higher rates of suicide and mental disorders in women who had suffered a stillbirth or miscarriage, compared to those who had a live birth.

“People who have close contact with women who have experienced stillbirth, miscarriage, or termination of pregnancy … should enhance their sensitivity to care for possible mental distress,” the 2017 study said.