It happens all the time but we hardly ever talk about it. About one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, leaving many couples struggling with unresolved grief and social isolation. In this 10-part video-based online series, made by Digital Alchemist and funded by NZ On Air, we break down the myths and provide practical help. We hear from well-known NZ personalities - The Hits host and te reo advocate Stacey Morrison, TVNZ presenter and journalist Miriamo Kamo and funeral director Kaiora Tipene from The Casketeers - about their personal experiences and follow the stories of six couples who have been through the trauma of miscarriage.
Having a miscarriage is sometimes described as being like "having a heavy period". But for many people, the experience is more complicated than that.
"There are three different types of miscarriage that can happen," says Dr Cathy Stephenson. "There are missed miscarriages, there are incomplete miscarriages, and there are complete miscarriages.
"A complete miscarriage is if you know you've got a pregnancy and you then sadly experience bleeding, some cramps, you may notice that you pass tissue, and then the bleeding and the cramps stop.
"An incomplete miscarriage is when you get bleeding and cramps, and some of the tissue will be passed, but not all of it. The bleeding and the pain may not stop, and you need to go and see a doctor, and there are certain things they can do to help the miscarriage finish.
"And then there's what's called a missed miscarriage, when there's nothing in terms of bleeding or pain at all. You will only realise that the miscarriage has happened when you go to a doctor and get either a scan or a blood test that shows that you're no longer pregnant."
Bereaved parent Hilaire Cornelius had a missed miscarriage. "I had absolutely no symptoms to tell me that I had miscarried," she says. "We found out at the 13-week scan that the baby had passed away."
Different medical terms get used to describe different types of pregnancy loss. For example, the term chemical pregnancy is used to describe very early miscarriage.
An anembryonic pregnancy, also known as blighted ovum, is when the gestational sac develops without the foetus. "The placenta and the fluid develop but the baby doesn't develop," explains Hilary Liddell, founder of the Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic at National Women's Hospital.
A molar pregnancy is one in which pregnancy tissue grows rapidly. "You have strong pregnancy symptoms, but the pregnancy is not continuing as a normal pregnancy," says Dr Karaponi Okesene-Gafa. "The woman has extreme symptoms of feeling very unwell."
Another cause of early pregnancy loss is ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a pregnancy develops outside the womb.
The term recurrent miscarriage applies to people who have had three miscarriages in a row with the same partner. Recurrent miscarriage is relatively rare, and people who experience it can talk to their GP to access specialist testing for both partners, and to discuss possible treatments.
- If you think you may be having a miscarriage, contact your lead maternity carer - this may be a midwife or your GP. Alternatively, call Healthlinefree on 0800 611 116, or visit your local Urgent Medical Centre or hospital
- Visit the Miscarriage Support websiteor join the Facebook group.
- Visit the Sands website. Sands supports parents and families who have experienced the death of a baby.
- Free call or text 1737to talk to a trained counsellor.