Like most expecting parents, Karen Schlage and her husband were going through baby names, shopping for the nursery and discussing childcare options during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, Karen miscarried her son Charlie at 15 weeks in 2018 and her daughter Sophia at just under 17 weeks the year after.
“What we went through when we lost Charlie [in the emergency department] showed us what needed to change in the system, but our experience losing Sophia [at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children] showed us what was possible,” Karen said.
As a result of her two experiences, Karen began lobbying for dedicated support services for women who lose their babies before 20 weeks’ gestation. Her effort has been realised with the ACT Government announcing that a dedicated Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) will be built at the Centenary Hospital for Women and Children.
The EPU is scheduled to be completed by 2022.
The unit has been added to the $50 million Centenary Hospital expansion after the scope of the project was changed after the inquiry into ACT maternity services delivered its report.
“At the Centenary Hospital I received the sort of care and emotional support that I hope all women losing a baby will be able to experience,” Karen said.
“I’m really sorry that women and families will need to use this new Early Pregnancy Unit, but at the same time I am so grateful that they will be able to.”
Every year 500 Canberran women receive care for miscarriages or termination of pregnancy as a result of medical issues, and the new three-bed unit will provide the dedicated support they need.
“It means that women will have somewhere to attend and be supported medically, emotionally and psycho-socially during their early pregnancy loss,” Karen said.
“It means this care will be extended to the women’s family. It means women will no longer have to miscarry in an emergency department or at home because they do not know where else to go.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said Karen has been a powerful voice for many women and families in the establishment of the EPU.
“Her input has played a pivotal role in ensuring that women experiencing early pregnancy loss will receive the emotional support and clinical care they need in the future,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“Many women and their families shared their experiences to help us build a better person and baby-centred maternity care system [and] this new Unit will provide women and families with the support and care required during an incredibly difficult and emotional time.”
The Centenary Hospital for Women and Children Expansion also includes a refurbished Paediatric High Care Ward, a new Adolescent Mental Health Unit, expanded Maternity Unit and a new Gynaecology Procedure Suite.
If this story has raised issues for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. You can also access the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre’s phone support program on 6288 1936.