Miscarriage: ‘We hope Anita Rani’s story will encourage Asian women to speak out’

Experts hope Anita Rani’s admission about her miscarriage will prompt more mothers to shun social stigma and seek help (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

by LAUREN CODLING

BBC presenter Anita Rani has been praised for sharing her experience of miscarrying a child, as experts believe it could help make others like her “feel less alone”.

Revealing she had lost a child earlier this year, Rani has urged women going through a similar
experience to talk about it. “Don’t let the misplaced shame stop you or the fact that it can be
very hard to talk about it,” the British-Indian journalist, 42, said on social media last week. “Find someone you trust and tell them.”

In light of Rani’s admission, charities and psychiatrists believe more Asian women may feel comfortable opening up on their experiences. According to psychiatrist Dinesh Bhugra, many south Asian communities see miscarriages as a “failure” on the mother’s part. In many families, he explained, the first born is specifically welcomed and earlier miscarriages are
frowned upon as it reflects a “weakness” of the woman.

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The wonderful @redmagazine asked me to write a piece reflecting on 2019 and I could only be honest. The most honest And open I’ve been in public about something I went through, my miscarriage. I talk about how I bottled up my feelings, because I’m good at that and how sadness always finds a release. I’ve written a piece for everyone who may have had some shit sent their way. A miscarriage, a break up, a bereavement, something that’s left you in the pit of despair. Share it, talk about it. Don’t let the misplaced shame stop you or the fact that it can be very hard to talk about it. Find someone you trust and tell them. It helps. I hope the piece I’ve written helps a few of you too. Thanks @redmagazine and @natashachloelunn @sarah.tomczak for giving me the platform to write my most import piece to date and allowing me to share. #miscarriage #sadness #sharing #compassion #talking #therapy

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Prof Bhugra sympathised with Rani and welcomed her story as he believed it could support others who have lost a child. “It may help them feel they are not alone and offer a degree of closure,” Bhugra, former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told Eastern Eye.

The national director at charity Miscarriage Association, Ruth Bender-Atik, agreed, describing
Rani as “courageous” for having shared her story. “She could have chosen not to talk about it,” she said. “What is important is that she is opening up, and it may be a comfort to know that she is helping others.”

Asian women who have suffered miscarriages also said they were pleased by Rani’s decision to go public, in hopes it could spur others to talk about it openly.

Jasvinder Sharma, 43, suffered from two miscarriages in her late 30s. Her youngest daughter Sia was born premature at just 30 weeks in 2017. “By going public, it does make it easier for others to open up the conversation,” she said. “In my experience, I found some members of the Asian community didn’t talk about complications during pregnancy – it is all
a bit hush-hush. But it is really important to discuss it – you don’t want to be suffering alone.”

Sia with parents Jasvinder (far right) and Gautam Sharma and sister Ria at the 2019 Tommy’s Awards

Sharma, from Heston, Middlesex, admitted she initially felt guilty about the miscarriages and
believed she had caused them. Acknowledging it was a “stigma” in the Asian community, Sharma found a lot of the older generation tended to question if a woman was not getting pregnant quickly enough after marriage.

“I don’t think people mean to, but many don’t seem to understand that some couples struggle to conceive,” she said. “Although my in-laws were fine, I’ve found (from friends) that some would assume something was wrong with the woman. That tends to be the attitude with a lot of families.”

Aishwarya Khatri*, 39, suffered four miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. Although she had not experienced the stigma first-hand, she agreed there tended to be a cultural expectation that an Asian woman should have a child as soon as she is married. “There is definitely a question of when you are having kids and that can accentuate the need to keep a loss under wraps,” Khatri, from north west London, said.

Sidra Shah, 34, lost two babies to pre-term birth and a miscarriage. Now a mother to 15-month-old Qudisa, Shah is honest about her experiences although she acknowledged that the older generation might not be so open about it. “Once I met one of my grandmother’s
close friends, and she found out that I’d lost two children. She admitted my grandmother
had not told her (about the loss),” Shah recalled. “When I asked my grandmother about it,
she said people make up stories and can believe that something is wrong with you or your husband, like it is a curse.”

Sidra (left), Zeghum and their daughter Qudsia

On Rani’s decision to go public, Shah spoke of her hope that it could “normalise” the conversation on complications within pregnancy. “We are such an educated society, yet there are still taboos – both in Asian and white communities,” she said.

According to Tommy’s, a charity funding research into the causes of miscarriage, stillbirth and
premature birth, one in four women will lose a baby during pregnancy or birth.

When Shah first went through complications with her pregnancies and wanted to reach out for support, she found other women tended not to discuss their losses. “When I started conversations with women who had had losses, it seemed like once you had a child, people don’t want to discuss it,” she said. “But I want my daughter to hear about her two siblings as they were here with us – they just didn’t have a long enough journey.”

*Name has been changed to protect identity

For support, see The Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s