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.
People can feel uncertain, isolated, and unsupported when they go through first-trimester pregnancy loss.
"I lost a pregnancy when I was reading the news," broadcaster and journalist Miriama Kamo says.
"I remember the cameras were all playing up that night - and I was like 'I can't believe this camera has gone, now that's one gone down, I'm losing my baby, I've got one camera left - I've got to get to the end of this bulletin and then deal with this'," Kamo said.
GP Cathy Stephenson says for a lot of couples, if they do experience a miscarriage, they fall through the cracks in terms of knowing who to go to in terms of help, advice and support.
"In most parts of New Zealand your pregnancy is managed by a midwife, not by your GP, but a lot of people can't get in to a midwife until they are 12 weeks, so you may feel like - I don't really know where to go."
Maryam Alavi wishes she had had someone to guide her through the process. "I thought we had to wait until 12 weeks to find a midwife, which was not the case," says Alavi, who struggled to find the support she needed when she lost her first pregnancy. "If I'd had a midwife, I could have called her immediately and she would have sent us to the right place and looked after everything."
People who have existing relationships with midwives may find it easier to get the help they need. Broadcaster Stacey Morrison sought support from the midwife who had been there during her previous pregnancies. "She was amazing," Stacey says. "She helped me to bring the baby on, and then made sure that we had a little coffin."
Those without such support networks can find themselves navigating the hospital system alone. That's what happened to bereaved parent Kate Chadwick. "I had a really junior doctor manage the situation and she was very clinical," Chadwick says. "I did feel quite alone in that experience."
The medical terminology used to describe miscarriage can add to the sense of isolation. All of a sudden your longed-for baby is a failed pregnancy, a spontaneous abortion, or the products of conception.
"It was termed an 'incomplete abortion' - something almost less than human," says bereaved parent Kathryn Stothers. "It was not recognised that that was our child, our much-wanted baby that we had tried for."
Emotional support can also be hard to come by - but the Miscarriage Support website is a good place to start. Miscarriage Support also offers a private Facebook group where people can find advice and comfort. Speaking to a qualified counsellor can also help people work through their feelings of loss.
- 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.