Many women experience miscarriage every year. Every fourth woman who has given birth reports that she has previous experience of miscarriage. In a study of all women in the Swedish Medical Birth Register 1983-2003, we found that the number of cases of self reported miscarriage had increased in Sweden during this 21 year period. This increase can be explained by the introduction of sensitive pregnancy tests around 1990, as well as an increase in the mean age of the mothers, by approximately 3 years, during the observation period. The risk of miscarriage is 13% with the first child. With subsequent pregnancies, the risk of miscarriage is 8%, 6% and 4% with the second, third and fourth child, respectively.
Thirteen of these women who had suffered a recent miscarriage were interviewed four months later, and their feelings of guilt and emptiness were explored. Their experience was that they wanted their questions to be answered, and that they wanted others to treat them as the mothers to be that they felt themselves to be. They also experienced the need for time to grieve their loss.
Measurement of grief by means of the Perinatal Grief Scale (PGS) is used in research but has also been proposed for clinical use. We have translated this psychological instrument to Swedish, back-translated and tested it in a small pilot study. In a randomized controlled study, women with early miscarriage were allocated, either to a structured visit (study group) or a regular visit (control group) to a midwife. The structured visit was conducted according to the Swanson caring theory. We could conclude that the structured visit had no significant effect on grief compared to the regular visit, as measured using the PGS. However, women with the sub-diagnosis missed abortion have significantly more grief four months after early miscarriage, regardless of visit type.
We also performed a content analysis of the tape-recorded structured follow-up visit. The code-key used was Bonanno and Kaltman’s general grief categorization. Women’s expression of grief after miscarriage was found to be very similar to the grief experienced following the death of a relative. Furthermore, the grief was found to be independent of number of children, women’s age, or earlier experience of miscarriage.
Conclusions: Every fourth woman who gives birth reports that she has also experienced early miscarriage. The experience of these women is that they have suffered a substantial loss and their reaction is grief similar to that experienced following the death of a relative.
Linköping: LiU-Tryck, Linköping, Sweden , 2006. , 68 p.
Miscarriage, Grief, Perinatal Grief Scale in Swedish, Follow-up visit to midwife, Medical Birth Register
2006-04-07, Berzeliussalen Hälsouniversitet i Linköping, Linköping, 16:30 (Swedish)