Warmer words might help us to deal with the pain of miscarriage | Letters

Rosie Toothill, Mike Corcoran and Shirley Harrington respond to Katy Lindemann’s article about the grief of losing a baby being compounded by insensitive language

I wanted to thank Katy Lindemann for writing about her painful experience of miscarriage (How dare they call my lost baby a ‘product of conception’, 11 October). After suffering a miscarriage very recently, I have been struck by a number of things, as well as working out how to cope with the pain and anxiety this has brought. The language used in my experience was largely the same as Katy’s; mine was classed as an “unviable” pregnancy, which felt so cold and inhumane, and certainly did not represent how I felt about my pregnancy. As Katy pointed out, your “unviable” pregnancy is everything you have always dreamt of and hoped for. There is so much work to be done around how, as a society, we deal with and talk about early pregnancy, pregnancy loss and infertility, to help women and their families dealing with these issues every single day, often silently.
Rosie Toothill

• Thank you, Katy Lindemann, for sharing your experience of early pregnancy loss. Sadly, your story mirrors the experience of my wife and I last year, having suffered two miscarriages in close succession. We too were shocked and upset at the change of language from “baby” to “product” once a heartbeat could no longer be detected. We also found sharing a crowded waiting room with expectant parents all of whom were at different stages of the early pregnancy rollercoaster particularly unhelpful, especially when one mum-to-be began sharing the good news of a positive scan to her nearest and dearest by phone.

These events have informed my work as a hospital chaplain. Where comfort may be lacking from clinical staff (who it could be argued maybe shielding themselves from the pain of the loss of a little life by the language they employ), pastoral support is available from chaplaincy teams up and down the country. Thankfully they are still funded by the NHS in recognition of their contribution to holistic care. We offer more than TLC, with the opportunity in most hospitals for parents to attend a cremation service and annual memorial events to ensure their baby’s short life is acknowledged and not forgotten.

You are right in saying that language matters. In our hospitals and GP surgeries the wider use of sensitive and appropriate words and body language would help alleviate some of the anguish associated with illness or bereavement, reminding people that the NHS is still primarily there to care.
Rev Mike Corcoran

• Katy Lindemann does well to highlight the impact – often unconsidered by the allied professions – of the loss of a baby, a unique, real person, by miscarriage.

In my former career I became aware that a similar anguish often extended to women who had had abortions. The fact that they had opted to end the pregnancy added a guilt to their grieving, which they often hid as something secret or shameful; thus, they were unable to seek the same sympathy and understanding attending miscarriage or neonatal death.

In Japan there are provisions for couples to go to temples across the country and install and visit mizuko figurines representing lost (mainly unborn) children, including those that have been aborted. Then, various rituals are enacted, including prayers for the child or for forgiveness and so on. This seems to me a far healthier approach. By acknowledging the child as a human being, however it was lost, parents are able to grieve openly and seek resolution. A more imaginative alternative than the present under-the-carpet dismissal of an unborn baby as the “product of conception”.
Shirley Harrington
Bury, Greater Manchester


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