Let's start with the unspoken and uncomfortable fact that miscarriages at home usually happen in a toilet.
Content Warning: This story discusses pregnancy loss details that may be uncomfortable for some readers.
Losing a pregnancy is not something anyone can prepare for. There's no course you can take to tell you what to expect, how you'll feel or what to do after the miscarriage occurs. It's not something that's widely talked about, even in conversations about miscarriage.
About 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage in the first trimester and 1 in 5 in the second, according to the March of Dimes. Many women who reveal they've lost a pregnancy talk about how difficult it was emotionally, but they rarely talk about the lack of information from medical professionals or the details of the process of miscarrying. It makes sense because it's hard enough to discuss pregnancy loss, and to go into detail may be much worse on their mental health.
There also may be a level of shame attached to the process, partly because the topic of miscarriage is still taboo but also because many at-home miscarriages happen in the toilet. It's an uncomfortable truth that haunts people who have experienced the process. But the truth of the matter is, hospitals don't usually admit you for a miscarriage; they send you home with little to no instructions on what to do after it happens. So to people who have experienced the pain of a miscarriage at home, it makes sense that a woman in Ohio, currently on trial for "abuse of a corpse" would have no idea what to do after miscarrying.
Brittany Watts, 33, of Warren, Ohio, went to the hospital twice concerning her unborn baby. She was informed that she was miscarrying and her baby was not viable. She was presumably sent home to miscarry, like many other miscarrying mothers. The fetus was only 22 weeks gestation when Watts miscarried into the toilet after her water broke, and when she flushed the remains clogged the pipes. A forensic pathologist testified that an autopsy found that the fetus was not injured, and that it had died before passing through the birth canal. Instead of being able to grieve, Watts was arrested.
But there's not much information available in America on what to do if you miscarry at home. In the UK, the NHS sends miscarrying mothers home with a leaflet that gives some basic options on how to handle the process.
"If you miscarry at home you are very likely to pass the remains of your pregnancy into the toilet. You may look at what has come away and see a pregnancy sac and/or a very early baby (we call this a fetus) – or something you think might a be a fetus. If you complete your miscarriage at home you have no obligation to dispose of the pregnancy remains in any particular way," the NHS writes.
"You might want to simply flush the toilet – many people do that automatically. If you prefer to dispose of the remains the way you normally dispose of sanitary waste this is a personal choice and there are no regulations to prevent you doing whatever feels right for you. Or you may want to remove the remains for a closer look. That’s natural too. If you know that you do not want to flush the remains of your pregnancy you may wish to place a bowl into the toilet."
I’m struggling to comprehend the ignorance of policy makers about what happens during pregnancy/miscarriage.— Mamacita Sanchez (@SanchezMamacita) November 30, 2023
Yesterday I learned that they didn’t know that you usually miscarry into a toilet. They didn’t know that your medical team sends you home to miscarry.
Being in the position of losing a pregnancy and everything that comes with it, people forget the shock aspect of it all. There are people who pass out from pain and those who pass out from the sight of blood, both of which are often present with miscarriages. But the question remains, what are people going through this experience supposed to do if they're sent home from the hospital or miscarry without warning at home?
A woman who uses the screen name Mamacita Sanchez took to X (formerly Twitter) to express her shock and frustration at elected officials.
"I’m struggling to comprehend the ignorance of policy makers about what happens during pregnancy/miscarriage. Yesterday I learned that they didn’t know that you usually miscarry into a toilet. They didn’t know that your medical team sends you home to miscarry," she starts her thread.
"They don’t know the difference between Plan B and meds used to manage miscarriages. They don’t know the difference between zygote/embryo/fetus. They don’t know a miscarriage is called an “abortion” on a woman’s medical chart."
Sanchez's thread goes on to highlight the dangers of pregnancy and miscarriages with women chiming in revealing their own experience with miscarriage and their fears.
"I got sent home after they determined there was no heart beat to have my miscarriage at home. Lots of clots and lumps of tissue. No telling what in all that was what. Where is it supposed to go if not the toilet? So. Much. Blood. Such sadness. Heart ache. Agony," one woman replies.
"Exactly! I was given the pill when my body didn't take care of things on its own and spent the next day feeling like I was dying while my boss texted me over and over again on how to do my tasks. Farthest I got from the restroom was the bed," someone reveals.
"I’ve been saying the same. Policy-makers, and too many journalists, do not understand the medical details of pregnancy complications, not to mention the emotional distress that comes with it," another woman explains.
Maybe it's time for lawmakers to start listening to the people who have gone through these situations and the medical professionals that see them. The physical and emotional toll miscarriage takes on a person can be unimaginable, so a little grace and understanding goes a long way.