Maternity unit staff are not always as sensitive as they could be to women who have had miscarriages, according to a new survey.

The survey also found that women who have had miscarriages are often put in wards with pregnant or postnatal women.

The survey concludes that maternity care providers should re-evaluate their pregnancy loss services with a view to improving women's experiences. One in five women experience miscarriage in Ireland.

According to the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services - Ireland (AIMSI), which carried out the survey, hospitals are dealing with large numbers of women suffering from miscarriage and the "desensitisation" of certain staff to the trauma of sufferers causes considerable upset to women.

The AIMSI survey of 106 women who had suffered a pregnancy loss found that while some had positive experiences with their care, others did not.

The report says while some women found medical and midwifery staff to be compassionate, some were abrupt. Seventy-one per cent of those surveyed felt they were treated with compassion whole 29% said they were not.

Forty-per cent of women felt their pregnancy loss was not acknowledged properly by staff.

One women described being "told off" by a midwife while she was miscarrying for taking home her file. Other women, according to the survey, felt they were just a number, with staff telling them that miscarriage is "a daily occurrence for them."

Just over 77% of women surveyed said they understood decisions made about their care. While 67% said they were given sufficient verbal information about pregnancy loss, only 45% said they were given sufficient written information.

AIMSI says while the majority of women were involved in decisions about their care, there is still room for improving inconsistencies in this area.

The survey found that privacy was also a problem, with 42% feeling this was lacking, both on initial examination and afterwards when, for example women were inappropriately accommodated in wards with pregnant and postnatal women.

One women said "I was in a public ward with six women in labour. This has devastated me and has scarred me for life."

One women said she was put on a men's ward due to overcrowding.

Forty-three per cent of those surveyed said they were not given enough time with professionals at their examinations.

Follow-up services for women who suffered pregnancy loss, it was found, were grossly inadequate, with 60% of respondents not being offered or told about any further support services available to them.

Only 31% of women who experienced more than one pregnancy loss were offered medical investigation on possible causes of the miscarriages.

Not all women, it was found, were allowed to have a support partner with them, and this was often related to lack of facilities.

Overall, 30% of respondents rated services around pregnancy loss as average with a 30% rating them above average.

AIMSI recommends that private examination rooms and separate ward areas be provided for women experiencing miscarriage and that written information provision also be improved.

It says healthcare professionals and staff should receive further training in attending and supporting women suffering pregnancy loss.

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