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New website to help cope with miscarriage


Miscarriage can be a traumatic event for both women and their partners as revealed by findings from a recent University of Aberdeen study into the psychological impact of early pregnancy loss.

The study also discovered that the emotional toll of miscarriage is often not recognised by health professionals, sometimes resulting in a general dissatisfaction with the provision of after care.

Of the 586 participants in the miscarriage study, a number said that they would like more information about miscarriage, as well as more support.

In an effort to meet this need, the research team secured funding of £19,753 from the Chief Scientist Office (Scottish Executive Health Department) for a 12-month pilot study. After developing the miscarriage-related website (based on the information and support needs identified in the initial research), the researchers will establish how best to evaluate its efficiency in helping with adjustment after miscarriage.

Dr Susan Klein, Research Manager at the University’s Aberdeen Centre for Trauma Research (ACTR), is leading the project. She said: “Our initial research revealed that many people feel very isolated after experiencing a miscarriage. Some women and their partners also have difficulties in adjusting to their loss which puts them at risk of developing psychological problems in the longer term.

“Previous research conducted to identify the psychological impact of miscarriage has tended to focus on women, yet our study revealed it is an event which may also affect partners, although the ways in which they cope tend to differ.”

“We identified a need for a ‘low-level’ intervention to help women and partners cope with the impact of miscarriage. The internet was selected as a means of delivering this intervention because of its potential for interactive communication. Also, the provision of information and support can be provided in a timely manner and can be tailored to meet the needs of the individual. “

The new site provides an online forum or ‘chat room’ to allow users the opportunity to share their experiences with others who have experienced miscarriage. It also has an ‘Ask the Expert’ facility in order that users can obtain online answers from clinical experts to any personal questions relating to miscarriage.

However the website is not available to everyone until the outcome of a randomised controlled evaluation has been carried out to see how helpful it is.

The research team have now launched a bid to recruit women and their partners to test the feasibility of conducting an online evaluation of this unique miscarriage-related website.

Around 290 women and their partners who have attended the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at either Aberdeen Maternity Hospital or Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin will be invited to participate in the pilot project.

The researchers involved are part of a multidisciplinary University team comprising Dr Klein and Professor David Alexander from the ACTR in collaboration with Dr Grant Cumming, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Dr Neil Hamilton, Medi-CAL Unit, Department of Medical Illustration, and Dr Amanda Lee, Department of General Practice & Primary Care.

Research psychologist Denise Bolsover will conduct the online evaluation. The technical design and development of the website was subcontracted to Mr Dave Robinson of Scotweb.com Ltd - a company in Aberdeen that specialises in web-based solutions.

Findings from this pilot study will provide the basis for a further application to the Chief Scientist Office for the conduct of a national study.

Dr Klein added: “We certainly feel that the outcome of this pilot study is of potential benefit to the NHS. It is in line with their mental health priorities in terms of evaluating the efficiency of a low-level population based intervention.

“Should our website help with psychosocial adjustment and coping post miscarriage, it could be made available to a large number of people from a wide area at a relatively low cost to the NHS.

“The new website has the potential to be extremely beneficial in clinical, humanitarian and economic terms.”

For more information contact Dr Susan Klein on (01224) 557892 / 8.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014.

Issued on: Monday 21st of February 2005

Ref: 1597miscarriage
Contact: Jennifer Phillips

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