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Evidenced based television soap coverage of late miscarriage

by on 2017/01/16
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We have previously discussed television soap opera coverage of sensitive issues, such as mental health that was addressed in EastEnders last year. In recent days, another soap, Coronation Street, has been covering the highly sensitive issue of late miscarriage.

Long standing actress Kym Marsh, who plays Michelle was seen on Wednesday night’s episode giving birth to a baby who was not breathing at 23 weeks. The programme is to be commended for the evidence-based approach they took to covering this important and rarely discussed issue.

The programme producers researched the issue of late miscarriage by connecting with Sands, the national stillbirth and neonatal death charity, that was established by bereaved parents in 1978. A bereavement support and awareness specialist, Erica Stewart, at Sands, was quoted in the media:

We’re pleased to have been approached by the researchers and writers at Coronation Street for advice and help to ensure that this heart-breaking storyline, that will see character Michelle have a late miscarriage at 23 weeks, is portrayed truthfully and sensitively.

Accurate media coverage of late miscarriage is extremely important. Up to 24 weeks, the loss of a baby is referred to as a miscarriage. Many people experiencing a late miscarriage, and giving birth to a baby as we see in the programme, are unaware of this. It is only from 24 weeks that the loss is classed as a stillbirth. Coronation Street chose to cover the stage of pregnancy that is closest to this timeline raising important awareness about pregnancy loss at this stage.

Miscarriage is extremely common and unfortunately the topic is still very much taboo. Both parents involved in the coverage, Kym Marsh and Simon Gregson, have themselves had personal experience of miscarriage and have spoken in the media about this ‘silenced’ issue. Because of this silence, most women who experience a miscarriage, unless it is a repeated experience, have very little knowledge or awareness of the emotional, physical and procedural issues involved.

Sands are quoted in the media as stating that

We hope that with a TV drama as popular as Coronation Street covering this heart breaking experience, it will help to lift the taboo, and raise awareness of all the issues that surround the death of a baby.

This has clearly been achieved, with coverage that refers to Sands and in many instances provides accurate facts about miscarriage and stillbirth evident in a range of media outlets, including The Telegraph, the BBC, and the Daily Mail.

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