A COUPLE whose lives were shattered after a miscarriage have pledged to set up a support group for other couples.

Ruth Snape, 27, and her husband Andy, 33, found that there were no dedicated support facilities to help them when Mrs Snape had a miscarriage on Christmas Eve 2006, three months into her first pregnancy.

The couple, of Chapel Terrace, Whitewell Bottom, work at Pathways North West mental health rehabilitation centre in Accrington, and went for training in with the Miscarriage Society in London last week.

They are now appealing for healthcare professionals, community groups and women who have suffered miscarriage to help set up groups across East Lancashire.

They said nothing could have prepared them for losing their baby - they had planned to have children that year, hoping to regain their happiness in the months after Mrs Snape's father died.

And it was only after nearly three months of searching on the internet that they managed to get professional counselling.

Mrs Snape said: "I work in mental health and there I was thinking I would end up having major mental problems myself if I didn't get some help.

"Everyone handles it differently, but this time last year I couldn't imagine ever getting through it.

"When you are pregnant you are planning for everything, and then it's all gone, and most of the time women get the physical treatment, but nothing to help them through psychologically.

"It's hard to grieve properly afterwards because there's nothing there to grieve for and yet you have lost your child."

Mr Snape added: "I want to look out for the blokes too, because they feel like they have to be macho and strong, and I was like that when it first happened because I had to be - it was later on that it really hit and I experienced feelings I never even knew could exist.

"No-one likes to think about miscarriage, but it happens in one in four pregnancies - we want to publicise it and raise people's awareness."

Mr and Mrs Snape are now writing to health bodies throughout the area to ask for help and guidance, and Mrs Snape will raise cash for the Miscarriage Association with a 5km sponsored run in Manchester in June.

She said: "I spent a lot of time looking on the internet after my miscarriage, and I found the online support groups a massive help - if they were face-to-face, they would have been even better."

A spokesman for East Lancashire Primary Care Trust said support was provided through GPs and community nurses for women after suffering miscarriages.

Dr Swamy Narayana, a Burnley GP and chairman of the PCT's Professional Executive Committee, said: "Most GP practices have surgery-based counselling services available and purpose is to help people though these painful and stressful times. Even if there is no practice-based service, there is still access through primary care mental health services.

"However, support and help from someone who has been through the experience is always very valuable."

Anna Raeburn, patron of the Miscarriage Association, said: "Recent research showed nearly half of women suffering miscarriages did not feel well informed about what was happening to them, only 29% felt well cared for emotionally, and nearly four out of five received no aftercare."

To contact Mrs Snape, e-mail her at ruthsnape1@talktalk.net, or call her on 07591 801937.