Miscarriage rates over 40% higher in black women

Published on: 28/04/2021

Black women face a significantly higher risk of having a miscarriage than white, research suggests.

The Lancet analysis of data on 4.6 million pregnancies in seven countries suggests being black increases miscarriage risk by 43%.

It calls for people in the UK to be given support after their first pregnancy loss. Currently, referral to specialist clinics usually occurs after three consecutive losses only.

Most countries, including the UK, do not collect statistics. But researchers estimate:

15% of pregnancies end in loss
1% of women will experience recurrent miscarriage

Some estimates of miscarriage rate are higher, but this is due to differences in how countries define pregnancy loss, which can be from a positive pregnancy test or from a scan.

The report also found that women who suffered miscarriage, from all ethnic backgrounds, are more vulnerable to long-term health problems, such as blood clots, heart disease and depression.

What increases miscarriage risk?

being under 20 or over 40
a previous miscarriage
being very underweight or overweight
long hours and night shifts
being black
high alcohol intake

The research published in The Lancet suggests:

pre-conception support so women are in the best possible condition for pregnancy
regular early scans and support from the start of the pregnancy
pelvic ultrasounds to check the structure of the womb
hormone treatment
aspirin and heparin injections to reduce blood clot risk
progesterone for some of those with bleeding in early pregnancy
tests and treatment for a weak cervix

Most of the research was carried out in Sweden, Finland and Denmark, some of the few countries that gather statistics, though data from the US, UK, Canada and Norway was also used.

Lifestyle changes

About 75% of those who miscarry will go on to have a healthy pregnancy, which is partly why couples are usually encouraged to try for another baby without further investigations.

Lifestyle changes could help – and about 30% of people referred to her clinic smoked, had uncontrolled diabetes, a high body-mass index or blood pressure.

Nadine Dorries, minister for women’s health, said: “Suffering the loss of a child is a tragedy beyond words, which is why we’re urgently working to understand and address the causes of miscarriages, while providing the best support for families.”

Work was ongoing to look at the quality of bereavement care, and reduce inequalities in care for new and expectant mothers, she added.

In an editorial accompanying the research, the Lancet says: “For too long, miscarriage has been minimised and often dismissed.

“The lack of medical progress should be shocking.

“Instead, there is a pervasive acceptance.

“The era of telling women to ‘just try again’ is over.”

Here at MAMA Academy, we are busy developing resources to help prevent baby loss amongst the BAME community.

Read the full Lancet report here.