One in four pregnancies ends in the loss of the foetus but the needs of women who miscarry are being neglected by the NHS, campaigners claim today.
A survey by the website Mumsnet showed women who suffered miscarriages were treated insensitively, given inadequate pain relief and faced unacceptable delays in treatment.
Nearly half of the women were treated alongside others who were pregnant or had newborn babies, adding to their distress. Over a third who required surgery to remove the contents of the womb following a miscarriage had to wait four or more days for the procedure and a fifth referred for a scan faced waits of three days or more.
Mumsnet said it would campaign for the implementation of a code of care to improve the treatment of women who miscarry. The code calls for supportive staff, access to scanning, appropriate places for treatment, good information and joined-up care.
Justine Roberts, co-founder of the website, said: "There are a number of simple changes that could make a considerable difference to the level of trauma that miscarrying parents undergo."
Early miscarriages are caused in about half of all cases by genetic abnormalities. Infections and fevers may also trigger a loss.
Professor Tom Bourne, consultant gynaecologist at Imperial College NHS Trust, London, said: "Possible miscarriage is one of the most common reasons why women are seen in hospital. The Mumsnet code of care addresses some of the fundamental principles involved in caring for women at this difficult time and is to be applauded."
Jane Brewin, chief executive of the charity Tommy's, said: "Once again, Mumsnet has highlighted the distress felt by so many mums when they suffer a miscarriage. More research is needed to understand what goes wrong and to treat those affected, and the very high standards of care delivered by many health professionals need to be consistently applied."
Ruth Bender Atik, director of the Miscarriage Association, said: "Most women find the experience very distressing. For many it feels like a bereavement. Women who miscarry feel they have let their families down."
David Cameron was criticised yesterday for his failure to honour a promise to introduce an extra 3,000 midwives in England. The leader of the Royal College of Midwives, Cathy Warwick, said the number of midwives had not kept pace with the birth rate in England, which has risen 22 per cent in the past two decades.
After four miscarriages, Lisa Francesca Nand is having treatment at a private Harley Street clinic in an attempt to ensure that her next pregnancy goes to term. She has been told she has high numbers of "natural killer cells" which cause her body to reject anything it identifies as a foreign object – including the baby growing inside her.
Aged 37, the freelance journalist is making a documentary about her experiences. "People are ashamed or embarrassed to talk about miscarriage," she said. "It is not just about the loss of a foetus but the loss of a future and all the hopes and dreams associated with it."
"The worst thing is that medical staff in hospitals see this every day and don't appear to care.
"If you miscarry in a weekend, as I did, you can't get a scan and when you do, you often sit there with people with children, which is insensitive. We need to be less shy about talking about it."