Miscarriage is still a "stigmatising topic", with the authors of new research saying the findings of a survey conducted into the level of information about it in the general population was "concerning".
Almost 1,000 people were surveyed as part of the research, with many having little knowledge as to the incidence or impact of miscarriage, and with more people likely to engage with the internet on the subject rather than a healthcare professional.
The researchers behind the study, published in the, said it "provides an insight into the poor understanding of the general population on the topic of miscarriage".
Authors included members of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Centre at University College Cork and the Pregnancy Loss Research Group, and The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, University College Cork.
It found there was a "sparsity of information" about miscarriage, "a lack of factual awareness on miscarriage, including its incidence, definition and consequences" and "confusion in the terminology around definitions of pregnancy loss, with one-fifth of respondents defining a pregnancy loss over 24 weeks as a miscarriage".
The study illustrates how "miscarriage remains a stigmatising topic", the authors said.
The study, titled 'The general populations’ understanding of first trimester miscarriage: a cross sectional survey, concluded there was a need for increased public health interventions to improve reproductive health education and to increase the awareness of potential adverse outcomes of pregnancy, as well as to "dispel myths associated with miscarriage".
"Despite miscarriage being a common pregnancy complication, there remains 'a vast silence' around this topic."
An opinion poll was carried out by Ipsos Market Research Board Ireland (MRBI) on the researchers' behalf and over a two week study period, 967 respondents aged 18 years and older were interviewed.
Of those questioned, 72% were able to provide an estimate of miscarriage, with the remaining 27.7% saying they were unable to estimate a rate. Of those who did provide an estimate, 28.2% correctly estimated that miscarriage occurs in 21% to 30% of pregnancies, while almost one-third of respondents believed miscarriage occurs in 0% to 5% of pregnancies, with 60.8% believing the incidence of miscarriage was less than 20%.
The odds of under-estimating the rate of miscarriage were three times higher for men, the study noted.
While more than one-third of respondents had engaged in a discussion on the topic of miscarriage with a family member, almost the same percentage of people found the internet to be an important source of knowledge and were more likely to do so than to consult with a healthcare professional.
According to the research: "The general populations’ knowledge of miscarriage, its incidence and associated factors is concerning, as are their health information seeking behaviours.
One of the authors of the study, Claire McCarthy, maternal research fellow at the Rotunda Hopsital, said in response to the report findings, there had already been some positive developments to bridge the knowledge gap and assist those who need help and information.
*Website providing information on miscarriage and pregnancy loss by the Pregnancy Loss Research Group, CUMH: corkmiscarriage.com
*More information is available at infantcentre.ie.