Research suggests 3% of people who had 8 or more miscarriages a year died from other causes – some years after their babies were born

British women with at least one miscarriage a year died as a result of other causes in July and August, and 16% died from other causes, almost a third, according to a study.

Experts from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland are now called upon to test further their findings and decide whether or not to challenge government ministers or the courts.

There have been limited results from expert doctors, who say they have often found early signs of disease such as tumours but have been stymied by scepticism by human rights groups.

However, politicians backed the story and urged the NHS to provide free contraception.

“I completely understand that some people do not like to admit to miscarriage,” said Steve Field, the prime minister’s health spokesman. “As with many medical and social policy decisions, the impact of doctors’ own recommendations cannot be underestimated.

“But most people cannot afford not to admit this to their doctors, and our country could be facing the personal nightmare of millions of women in the years ahead if women are prevented from revealing their miscarriages. I applaud some women for not forgetting that miscarriage is a tragic personal pain and they should not have to suffer in silence.”

On Saturday, Theresa May backed campaigners who called for free contraception. But she has also said she will not support it because it is only funded by EU taxpayers.

In her bid to address the crisis, the children’s minister Simon Burns will say that any fertility drug covered by NHS trust plans “must cover caesarean section, multi-drug therapy and prophylactic contraception, all under NHS regulations for every one-day supply of all women with a child birth”.

Field said the report “says something that really needs to be taken into account”.

“Thousands of women in this country are living through their darkest day when their baby dies, and yet right here in the UK we have a public policy that suggests these women simply miss out on regular contraception,” he said.

“The problem, however, is not even having free access to contraceptive help at all. There are some serious barriers for women who want to access the fertility treatments they need.”

More than 17,000 women in the UK have survived miscarriage. According to the latest figures, the UK has the worst maternal mortality rate of any European country. That’s the lowest in the EU and beats Finland and Poland.

There are slightly more than 6,000 pregnancies between the ages of 15 and 19 per year in the UK and maternity deaths made up just 0.8% of all deaths in Britain from causes other than childbirth.

Far fewer, however, are known to the public. In the study published on Monday, more than 4,500 women were interviewed and the vast majority of them said they had experienced a miscarriage during their pregnancies. A majority – 41% – had a second miscarriage, which is also known as bereavement. The vast majority of survivors told doctors they had “completely” or “substantially” denied the miscarriage had happened and their bodies had reacted poorly.

They had also suffered from depression, anxiety, other serious health problems or other type of disease. The majority have told doctors they wish to pass on their bodies to their children, to give them a different reaction to their loss, the researchers said.

Nearly half of women said they had experienced violence from men during their pregnancies and a quarter had experienced physical assault on the way into maternity care.

Researchers said this was extremely significant as it might raise barriers in adoption which put at risk the most vulnerable people in society. “Being diagnosed with depression and gender dysphoria while pregnant is pretty common,” said Sarah Frazer, a research scientist from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Population Health.

“Having a miscarriage and feeling like you should die due to symptoms is a worrying aspect of pregnancy in young women. Whether the miscarriage was an unplanned miscarriage or some other reason it is still really worrying.”

The researchers analysed the hours before and after ultrasound scans, birth records and death certificates. They found 31% of patients and 13% of the doctors interviewed had seen an embryo or uterus affected by embryo transfer or precancerous cells.

More than half of the doctors said they were more likely to allow patients to die when a foetus had defects or of men were born. Nearly a third of doctors and 38% of nurses said such deaths would not occur to them but nevertheless more than a third agreed with them.