May 11, 2015—(BRONX, NY)—A survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults has found that misperceptions about miscarriage and its causes are widespread. Results of the survey, conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Health System, show that feelings of guilt and shame are common after a miscarriage and that most people erroneously believe that miscarriages are rare. The findings were published online today in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Nearly one million miscarriages occur in the U.S. each year. Miscarriages end one in every four pregnancies and are by far the most common of all pregnancy complications. Yet 55 percent of respondents to the Einstein/Montefiore survey believed that miscarriages are “uncommon” (defined in the survey as less than six percent of all pregnancies).
“Miscarriage is a traditionally taboo subject that is rarely discussed publicly,” said Zev Williams, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Program for Early and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (PEARL) at Einstein and Montefiore. “We initiated this survey to assess what the general public knew about miscarriage and its causes and how miscarriage affects them emotionally.” Dr. Williams is also assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health, and of genetics, at Einstein.
Read Dr. Williams’ related blog post
Dr. Williams and colleagues devised a 33-item survey to assess perceptions of miscarriage; 10 items were specifically directed to men or women reporting a history of miscarriage. The survey was posted online using Amazon.com’s MTurk, a crowdsourcing web service. The anonymous participants—adults 18 or over from 49 states—received 25 cents as compensation. Of the 1,084 valid survey responses collected over a 3-day period in 2013, 45 percent were from men and 55 percent from women. Fifteen percent reported that they or their partner had suffered a miscarriage. Participants generally mirrored 2010 national census statistics with respect to gender, age, religion, geographic location and household income.
“Because miscarriage is very common but rarely discussed, many women and couples feel very isolated and alone after suffering a miscarriage. We need to better educate people about miscarriage, which could help reduce the shame and stigma associated with it.”– Zev Williams, M.D., Ph.D.
“The results of our survey indicate widespread misconceptions about the prevalence and causes of miscarriage. Because miscarriage is very common but rarely discussed, many women and couples feel very isolated and alone after suffering a miscarriage. We need to better educate people about miscarriage, which could help reduce the shame and stigma associated with it,” said Dr. Williams. “We want people who experience miscarriage to know that they’re not alone—that miscarriages are all too common and that tests are available to help them learn what caused their miscarriage and hopefully to help them in subsequent pregnancies.”
The article is titled “Public Perceptions of Miscarriage: A National Survey.” Other PEARL-affiliated authors were former Einstein medical students, lead author Jonah Bardos, M.D., M.B.E, now a resident at Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY; and Jenna Friedenthal, M.D., now at New York University-Langone Medical Center, New York, NY. Additional authors were Daniel Hercz, M.Sc., at University of Sydney Medical School, Sydney, Australia; Stacy Missmer, Sc.D., at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.
The research was supported by the department of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein and Montefiore and the National Institutes of Health (HD068546). The authors report no conflicts of interest.