Coronavirus restrictions have compounded the “trauma and distress” already felt by many women who have miscarried, a charity boss said.
Clea Harmer, chief executive of stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands, said social distancing limitations have meant women have had to go to hospital and grieve their unborn baby alone.
After the Duchess of Sussex spoke out on Wednesday about losing her unborn baby, Ms Harmer highlighted the “enormous” impact coronavirus is having for women going through the same struggle.
She told the PA news agency: “Attending scans and appointments can be really difficult, especially if you have had a miscarriage before, or your baby has died before, and often the scan is the place where you were told your baby has died.
“To be in that position on your own, without your partner there… there are heartbreaking stories of mothers being told on their own and having to go out to the car park or back home and tell their partner themselves.
“I think the trauma and the distress that that’s causing can’t be underestimated.”
She added that while the NHS has issued guidance for hospitals to allow women to bring their partners along to appointments and some trusts are finding innovative ways to allow for this, the picture is “very mixed across the country”.
Michelle Kennedy, who founded a virtual platform called Peanut for women to connect over issues related to motherhood including stillbirth, said this is echoed in the “unbelievable rise” in the number of people turning to her app for support.
Peanut, which allows users to speak over video and messenger forums, has seen its user base grow by 20% every month since lockdown began, and nearly two million women are now using it including 500,000 in the UK.
Ms Kennedy said women are using it to talk about how coronavirus will affect giving birth, IVF treatments and adoptions being paused, and going through loss without support “because they haven’t been able to meet people”.
She said: “There is something about the year that we’re living in and the challenges that we’re facing that make us want to say things and to be honest about what we’re going through but I also think it’s because women are at a point now where we’ve had to hold too much in for too long.”
Ms Kennedy added that Meghan has contacted her personally to thank her for creating Peanut, which she named after her own son who doctors told her was the size of a peanut at one point in her pregnancy.
She said: “Meghan is someone who we know resonated with our user base from the first moment she was in the public eye and beyond, because she took the brave step of saying things that others certainly in the royal family hadn’t yet said.
“She’s breaking taboos, she’s using her voice to normalise the feelings that every day women are experiencing.
“It was amazing that she used her platform to reach back out to us, and she continues to be inspiring not only to us, but the millions of women who are using Peanut who want to feel that their emotions don’t make them weird or unusual – they’re totally normal and totally legitimate.
“I think the duchess coming out with her own story has liberated so many women in so many different scenarios.”