Meghan Markle has spoken out about miscarriages — here’s why it makes a difference

Overwhelming shock, grief and sorrow — that’s what 39-year-old Annabel Bower felt when her baby Miles was born still in 2018.

“It was just such a shock,” she said.

“You are overjoyed that your family is going to be getting bigger and you’re going to welcome another baby. You just never think it’s going to go wrong.

“So when it does and when it happens to you it’s just an overwhelming experience of disbelief, grief, sorrow, and it is vital to have people to reach out to during that time.”

The mother of four is not alone — as many as one-in-four pregnancies in Australia ends in miscarriage, and yet it often remains a taboo subject.

“Often families haven’t revealed they’re having another baby, and then they lose that baby, so it’s very hard to announce loss and life in the same sentence.”

A high-profile voice has joined the conversation, with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, revealing she had a miscarriage in July, in an opinion article published in the New York Times.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, holding her and Prince Harry’s son Archie.(Reuters: Toby Melville)

The Duchess said she was sharing her story to help break the silence around an all-too-common tragedy.

“I think it helps open up the conversation to a broader audience, and it gives people confidence to tell their story,” Mrs Bower said.

Adelaide mother Lyndal Redman had two miscarriages before having her son Lincoln.

A man and a woman holding a baby
Lyndal Reman says speaking about miscarriage helps other women know they’re not alone in going through it.(Supplied)

She agreed the Duchess’s story would help bring the issue into the public eye.

“There’s still a silence and there’s so much grief that goes with miscarriage,” Ms Redman said.

“Having someone speak out about it always helps other people know that they’re not alone in going through this.

“The more we talk about it the better it’s going to be, and the more people will find it acceptable to say ‘I’ve had a miscarriage as well’.”

COVID-19 isolating women in need of miscarriage support

In her article, the Duchess wrote that during the COVID-19 pandemic the “social isolation required to fight this pandemic has left us feeling more alone than ever”.

Restrictions have meant some pregnant women have had to go to hospital for appointments and scans alone.

“That’s when a lot of women find out about their miscarriage,” Ms Redman said.

“You go into your scan and have your doctor tell you, ‘Sorry, there’s no heartbeat’. To have COVID basically take away having that support network during the scan or even at home would make it so much harder,” she said.

Mrs Bower said support was essential.

Mrs Bower is the state coordinator in South Australia for SANDS, a national support service for miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death.

She said organisations have had to change how they deliver their services.

“SANDS traditionally ran peer support groups parent to parent … and all of that has gone online this year,” she said.

“There are lots of peer support programs online and community groups that you can join on Facebook, so it has had its challenges but there’s also been some positive impacts,” she said.

A woman smiling at the camera in a busy city area with a blurred background.
Lyndal Redman is grateful the Duchess of Sussex spoke about her miscarriage experience and helped bring the topic to the public eye.(Supplied)

Ms Redman said it was vital to address the long-term psychological impacts of miscarriage.

“The physical you can get over it a lot quicker, but the mental anguish that goes with a miscarriage lasts for a long time,” she said.

“The moment you find out you’re pregnant, the moment you pick up that stick and you’ve got a positive pregnancy test you are thinking in the future and that baby is part of that future, and to have that ripped away. It doesn’t matter how far along you are, it’s still your child.”

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Research finds pregnancies, miscarriages reduce risk of endometrial cancer

Women who suffer miscarriages and those who have full-term pregnancies could be at less risk of developing a common kind of cancer, a new study has found.

Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) Berghofer said the risk of endometrial cancer reduced by about 15 per cent with each pregnancy, for as many as eight pregnancies.

For miscarriages, that risk falls by about 7 per cent per miscarriage.

Endometrial cancer, also known as uterine cancer, affects the endometrium — the lining of the uterus or womb — and is the fifth most common cancer for Australian women.

Cancer Australia said the disease affected 3,115 women across the country in 2019, and claimed about 350 lives in 2018.

QIMR Berghofer’s Penelope Webb says miscarriages reduce the risk of endometrial cancer by about 7 per cent.(Supplied)

QIMR Berghofer researchers examined pregnancy data from 30 studies conducted in Australia and around the world by the Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium.

This included 16,986 women with endometrial cancer and 39,538 women who never had the disease.

The research was led by Penelope Webb, the head of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s Gynaecological Cancers group.

“It’s well known that having a full-term pregnancy reduces a woman’s risk of developing endometrial cancer,” Professor Webb said.

“But our research has shown that not only does each additional full-term pregnancy reduce that risk by about 15 per cent, the reduction continues for up to at least eight pregnancies.

“We have also clearly shown for the first time that pregnancies that end in a miscarriage also reduce risk of endometrial cancer by about 7 per cent.”

Women who give birth to boys at lower risk

Susan Jordan, the first author of the study and now an associate professor at the University of Queensland School of Public Health, said the findings questioned the long-held belief that only hormone levels in the last trimester provided protection against women’s cancers.

“While a full-term pregnancy is associated with the greatest reduction in risk for endometrial cancer, even pregnancies that end in the first or second trimester appear to provide women with some protection,” she said.

“This suggests that very high progesterone levels in the last trimester of pregnancy are not the sole explanation for the protective effect of pregnancy … early pregnancy factors may also be playing a protective role against this disease.”

A woman and her young son.
Brisbane mum Lily Dean says the research findings are good news for women.(ABC News: Jason Dasey)

Brisbane mother Lily Dean, who is pregnant with her second child, described the QIMR Berghofer findings as “surprising”.

“Most of the time all that mothers hear about are the terrible things that happen to your body when you’re pregnant,” Ms Dean said.

“The miscarriages part is very surprising, I would have thought it would be full-term only.”

Ms Dean, 23, said she and her 26-year-old husband Rodney found out yesterday that their two-year-old son Archie would have a brother when their second child is born next March.

The researchers found women who had only boys, like Ms Dean, had a lower risk of endometrial cancer than mothers of only girls.

A mix of boys and girls also lowered the risk, the study said.

Dr Jordan said the study would help ongoing research into cancer prevention for Australian women.

“This raises the need for more research to identify other factors that underlie this protective effect,” she said.

In a statement, Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said the charity welcomed research into endometrial cancer, which about 450 women are diagnosed with in Queensland every year.

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