Almost 70 per cent of women who suffered a miscarriage said they received no support at all, according to survey results released by the Pink Elephants Support Network. 60 per cent of women said they would have used a peer support service, if it had been made available to them.
Every day in Australia, 282 women report pregnancy loss before 20 weeks gestation. One in four pregnancies will end before 12 weeks, and one in three pregnant women over the age of 35 will experience pregnancy loss.
The Pink Elephants Support Network was founded in 2016 by Samantha Payne and Gabbi Armstrong, after they connected on a Facebook group discussion about the lack of support for women experiencing infertility issues and pregnancy loss.
The charity provides free online support resources for women, their partners, family and friends that have been downloaded more than 4,000 times since launch, and provides care packs for women in more than 30 NSW Hospitals.
In June this year the Network launched a national first: to provide women with a course of six free sessions of personalised peer support with another woman who has walked a similar journey, providing a safe space to share feelings and emotions. Since June, 45 women have successfully completed the peer support program.
Pink Elephants Support Network co-founder Samantha Payne, who herself has suffered pregnancy loss, said women deserved the support of somebody removed from their everyday life to help guide, support and validate what they were going through.
Samantha Payne said: Today, 283 women will go through pregnancy loss across Australia and we know it is sadly a rarity for them to receive the information and support they both deserve and need.
"Miscarriage is an individual journey, but it's not one that should be walked alone. Everyone experiencing miscarriage has the right to receive support, empathy and understanding to assist and guide them through their own healing process. We support women as they grieve, nurture them as they heal and empower them as they move beyond."
TV presenter, self-care coach and The Thinkergirls podcaster Stacey June has recently become A Pink Elephants Support Network Advocate, as a woman who's been through loss herself, she is sharing her experience to help the charity reach and support more couples along their journey. She shared her grief during one of her podcasts in Motherhood week for the first time and wants to encourage other women not to feel alone.
She said, "When the girls from Pink Elephants Support Network approached me I was relieved they were supportive in sharing all of the colours of a miscarriage. The loss of my first baby created a harrowing grief I had not yet experienced. In my yearn to bring awareness to that grief I was also passionate about sharing the happiness I experienced of falling pregnant. Miscarriage is incredibly complex. It's important for us to discuss how the light and the dark can live within us simultaneously."
Cosmopolitan Woman of The Year Paralympian, author and speaker, Jessica Smith, is one of the women who is speaking out about her experience of pregnancy loss in support of #miscarriagematters.
She said, "Taking the time to acknowledge and remember my baby who was too precious for this earth, is something I try to do often, but having a day where all women who have experienced this loss can come together and feel united and supported, certainly makes the burden less heavy to carry. I had no idea what the statistics were around pregnancy loss, I felt lost and alone. I share my story in the hope that it will leave a sense of peace among others who also know this tremendous pain".
The support of these women forms an online #circleofsupport. The charity's name originates from the fact that when a mother elephants loses her baby in the wild, the other elephants place their trunks on her and form a circle of support.
Social worker and bereavement counsellor Terry Diamond, who works both in private practice and at the Royal Hospital for Women, designed and delivered the training to the Peer Support Ambassadors, which covered miscarriage basics, grief theory, counselling skills, boundaries and marking a loss. She said loss due to miscarriage was often disenfranchised.
"With many women following the 12 week rule, this means that if something does go wrong in early pregnancy they can find themselves dealing with the emotional impact of the loss without support," Ms Diamond said.
"Having trained peer supporters who can understand and validate the emotions that accompany the loss of a much wanted pregnancy is an invaluable resource."
Anybody seeking support can visit www.pinkelephantssupport.com to access free resources, downloadable fact sheets or to apply for assistance from a Peer Support Ambassador.
Question: Can you tell us about The Pink Elephants Support Network?
Samantha Payne: The Pink Elephant Support Network is a Sydney based charity which supports women and their partners across Australia who experience early pregnancy loss and infertility issues by providing a range of support services.
Everyone experiencing miscarriage has the right to receive support, empathy and understanding to assist and guide them through their individual healing process. We support women as they grieve, nurture them as they heal and empower them as they move beyond.
Question: What originally inspired you to begin The Pink Elephants Support Network?
Samantha Payne: With 1 in 4 pregnancies sadly ending in loss, we will unfortunately all know people affected by grief of this kind. The Pink Elephant Support Network was founded recently by Sam Payne and Gabbi Armstrong, two women who themselves were left alone with grief after early pregnancy loss and who want to make sure help is available to other women and their partners.
Question: Were you surprised that 70% of women received no support when they suffered a miscarriage?
Samantha Payne: 283 women will go through pregnancy loss across Australia and we know it is sadly a rarity for them to receive the information and support they both deserve and need.
Miscarriage is an individual journey, but it's not one that should be walked alone. Everyone experiencing miscarriage has the right to receive support, empathy and understanding to assist and guide them through their own healing process. We support women as they grieve, nurture them as they heal and empower them as they move beyond.
Question: What do you hope to achieve from the #miscarriagematters campaign?
Samantha Payne: We invited women across Australia to share their experiences of early pregnancy loss in personal videos on Instagram and Facebook to raise awareness of the importance of couples who experience miscarriage receiving the right support from both medical professionals and their loved ones. We were so pleased to see that thousands of people from across Australia and globally too share our passion for raising awareness of the fact the #miscarriagematters and felt moved to speak up about what they have been through. The idea behind this campaign was to create an online #circleofsupport for all of those currently experiencing miscarriage, we want couples going through early pregnancy loss realise they aren't alone.
Question: How does The Pink Elephants Support Network provide peer support services?
Samantha Payne: We have pioneered the first of its kind personalised peer to peer support service in Australia where women who have experienced their own loss become mentors for those on the unfortunate journey of dealing with the loss of a baby. We also provide resources for women experiencing loss, their partners and information that helps friends and family know how to support their loved ones.
Question: How can a partner support their wife during a miscarriage?
Samantha Payne: It can often be difficult as a partner to know what to do to help. We have put together a brochure to guide you through what your wife/girlfriend is going through emotionally and physically and to help you with how best to support her. You can download our 'partner resource' for free here - https://pinkelephantssupport.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/PESN0006-PESN-partner-brochure-download.pdf
Question: What is the best thing to say to someone who has experienced a miscarriage?
Samantha Payne: One of the most common issues we hear from women who have experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss is around the insensitive comments that people often inadvertently make when being told the news. We advise people to be there, be patient, be understanding, and be guided by her - it's so important that she isn't being told how to feel or act when she's grieving.
Question: How can friends and family support a female who has recently miscarriage?
Samantha Payne: If you can, give her a couple of days to rest and process what has happened. Do any household jobs you can to help, look after any responsibilities she may have, cook meals, offer help with chores or looking after any existing children, It will take a weight off her mind. It's a practical way to demonstrate how much you care.
Question: What advice do you have for women who have recently miscarriage?
Samantha Payne: We advise women who have experienced early pregnancy that It's ok to feel a myriad of different things when you have had a miscarriage. We want you to have all the information and support you need, when you need it most – at the time you are told you've lost your much longed for baby. Our 'Sorry for your loss' brochure is for women who have just experienced miscarriage and is free to download here - https://pinkelephantssupport.com/feel-home/support-resources/sorry-for-your-loss/. We'd also encourage her to get in touch with us and explore whether she feels she would benefit from the Pink Elephant Support Network's peer to peer support service, where you can talk through how you're feeling with another woman who understands miscarriage, having had her own loss.
Interview by Brooke Hunter