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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Louise

New 'Codeword' Hospital System For Women Experiencing Miscarriages

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

An author and 'IVF Warrior' from South Yorkshire is on a mission to change hospital procedure for women experiencing a miscarriage.

During her second cycle of IVF, Jodie Nicholson, 32, suffered a miscarriage in February 2023. She felt “let down” by the response of Rotherham General Hospital when she had to wait for her appointment in the general EPAU area. “I was placed in a general waiting area with pregnant women and couples talking about scans and baby plans whilst I bled my pregnancy away”, said Nicholson.

“The overwhelming feeling was anger. I was so angry that the professionals had minimised and invalidated my pain through sheer thoughtlessness. I also felt lonely and the most obvious feeling of course was sadness", she said.

After this experience, Nicholson worked out a new system which could protect women with pregnancy complications and started a petition which now has 1312 signatures. “I immediately wanted to do something about it", she said. "Finding a purpose really helps me heal through pain and I was adamant I didn’t want anyone else to have to experience what I had.”

The petition calls for “separate NHS areas for people experiencing pregnancy complications/loss.” Nicholson's system works on a codeword being given to patients when they make their appointment. At the desk, the patient would then say the code word or phrase and be directed to a separate waiting area. “Making a fuss can also be quite upsetting so the simplest, most sensitive way to do so, that I can think of, would be to use a name - a code word", Nicholson explained.

Rotherham General Hospital has already implemented this system after Nicholson contacted them about her experience. “I wanted to give my hospital the chance to rectify it so made contact with them directly and I must say they’ve been great and extremely supportive of my feedback", she said. Nicholson is also meeting with the team at EPAU, Rotherham in April and offering training via a group talk and Q&A to allow their staff to better understand some of the journeys prior to EPAU.

Nicholson experienced a 6 year fertility journey of “unimaginable pain and heartache” with her husband, Steve. She was found to have two collapsed fallopian tubes, polycystic ovaries and she didn’t ovulate. However, she is now a mum to a “2-year-old IVF miracle”.

“The stigma often associated with infertility discourages people from openly sharing their journeys and experiences”, said Nicholson. “I hope to promote openness and honesty by sharing my experience and vulnerabilities.”

The Miscarriage Association (2021) reported that more than 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage and estimated the numbers at a quarter of a million in the UK each year. Most miscarriages happen in the first 3 months of pregnancy however, they can happen up to the 24th week - after which the pregnancy loss is known as a still birth.

Nicholson's MP for Rother Valley, Alexander Stafford supports her petition. “Jodie has done, and continues to do, invaluable work to support and raise awareness of issues around infertility”, Stafford said. “Experiencing a miscarriage is a traumatic and distressing time and I believe that it is fundamental that we listen to women’s experience regarding infertility, and make changes based on them to help relieve any unnecessary pain to what is already a heart-breaking experience. This is why her petition calling upon the Government to protect those experiencing pregnancy complications or pregnancy loss from the unnecessary distress, is so important to support.”

In the UK, if a petition reaches 10,000 signatures it warrants a response from the government. However, if it reaches 100,000 signatures the topic is debated in parliament. Nicholson hopes to gain as many signatures as possible so that her new codeword system can have "a massive positive impact on some of the most vulnerable patients.”

In 2020, Nicholson published her first book, “I(v)F ONLY” which is now an international best seller. She is also an ambassador for Fertility Network UK, a writer for IVF Babble and part of a national campaign to abolish the “postcode lottery of fertility funding”.

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