After completing this unit you will:
The language and terminology you use with women is very important. It is useful to give some thought to the language that you use with women experiencing a miscarriage so that you can support them as effectively as possible.
It may have been ‘products of conception’ to them, but to me it was my baby.
This isn’t just a pregnancy I’ve lost, it’s a potential child that would have changed my life.
We suggest that you practise using ‘plain English’ versions of the terms health professionals use, especially those most difficult to explain, such as ‘anembryonic pregnancy’ or ‘molar pregnancy’. Try explaining them to a non-medical friend or family member.
Click on the medical terms below to reveal the lay term.
A pregnancy that will not continue to develop and grow but hasn’t yet miscarried.
Surgery to empty the womb.
Surgery to empty the womb (‘pregnancy tissue’ is a confusing term).
An area of bleeding in or near the pregnancy sac.
The pregnancy sac is empty. The embryo has not developed and may have been reabsorbed.
The cervix, or neck of the womb, opens (or dilates) long before it should.
The first sign on scan of a developing baby.
A pregnancy that is developing in the wrong place, usually in one of the fallopian tubes rather than in the uterus (womb).
An abnormal fertilised egg implants in the uterus (womb). The cells that should become the placenta grow far too quickly and take over the space where the embryo would normally develop.
There are further helpful suggestions in the UK consensus guidelines, referenced at the end of this section.
Use this exercise to see which words you’d use with a woman experiencing a miscarriage. Read the medical terms and think about how you could explain them in lay language.
Health professionals often find it difficult to find the right words, particularly if they do not have much experience of caring for women experiencing a miscarriage.
Women may ask you about what they are experiencing, whether the pain is normal or if their baby is going to be alright. If you cannot give clear answers to these questions, you could think about who might be able to, in the hospital or elsewhere.
In this clip, two ambulance crew members express their uncertainly about what to say to a woman who appears to be suffering a miscarriage.
Not being able to answer their questions is very difficult and makes me feel like I’m inadequate in my job, when in fact I’ve just not had adequate training.
Think about how you would have responded to the woman if you were in this situation.
Women’s previous experiences can influence the way they present and how they react to news, whether it is good or bad.
This short film explores an exchange between Natalie and her general practitioner.
My GP couldn’t do anything to change what had happened but she listened.
As you watch the film, reflect on how the GP could have used language to make the consultation more positive for Natalie.
You might not be able to meet all the woman’s expectations when she is distressed but understanding, kindness and acknowledging her feelings can help.
You may have thought of the following: