Friday 15th October is Baby Loss Awareness Day. 1 in 4 women suffer miscarriage, so there is no doubt that the majority of you know someone who has been through this painful experience. I am one of those women. This is my experience.
In 2004 I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl, I had conceived easily and had an uncomplicated pregnancy. Naturally when we decided to try for our 2nd child we expected the same pattern to follow. At first it all seemed to be going to plan, I conceived quickly and easily as before and we began to get excited about a new addition to the family. At 13 weeks I had a small bleed. I was worried, so called the midwife who assured me that it was fairly common but that she would book me in for a scan at the early pregnancy unit. This was on a Saturday and as they didn’t perform scans at the weekend she booked me in for Monday morning.
Monday morning at the early pregnancy unit is not a very reassuring place. It was full to the rafters with all the weekend referrals and we had to wait hours before we could be seen. When we were ushered to the waiting area for the scan, I was shocked and upset to see most of the women coming out in tears, some sobbing uncontrollably. We thought we were only there for a routine scan.
When we were finally seen, the radiographer announced that she could see nothing there. This was very confusing – was I still pregnant or not? The radiographer said that there was something showing on the scan but that it wasn’t a foetus and they were unsure what it was. We were then taken into a room to see a nurse who was very sympathetic and took some details. We were then taken into another room to wait for the consultant to talk to us. We were in there for some time without really knowing what was going on. I had gone in as a pregnant woman and now I was being told that I wasn’t pregnant anymore.
Eventually someone came and got us. It appeared that they had forgotten that we were there and everyone else had gone. We were ushered apologetically into another room to see a junior doctor. She took blood and measured my hormone levels and said that they would need to test again in a few days to see whether the hormones were dropping. She explained that it might be a molar pregnancy but I wasn’t given any further information on this.
I went home thoroughly confused and devastated. I looked up molar pregnancy on the internet and was shocked to find that if this were the case I wouldn’t be able to try for another baby for a year. I had to return to hospital again and go through the whole waiting process to have my 2nd blood sample taken. The consultant rang me the following evening to say that the hormone levels were dropping but that they would need to book me in for an evacuation of retained products. From this they would be able to determine whether or not it was a molar pregnancy. He was the first person I had spoken to who I felt spoke with any authority on the subject.
I was booked in for the operation, I can’t remember how long I waited but I think it was about a week. I was in a ward with lots of other people and had the feeling that some of these were having terminations. It felt a bit like a factory conveyor belt. I stayed in hospital for a few hours and then was allowed to go home. They told me that if I didn’t receive any results then it wasn’t a molar pregnancy. I wasn’t offered follow-up care , support or counselling.
My memory of those first few days post miscarriage is of lying in bed feeling like I couldn’t bring myself to face the world. Hugging my little girl and husband, crying a lot and struggling to move. 2 days post operation, I started to experience an intense shooting pain like someone was stabbing me with a piece of glass. I went to my GP who said that I had an infection and gave me antibiotics and painkillers. That night I went to the theatre with my husband. I could barely walk from the car park to the theatre and had to lean on my husband’s shoulder and shuffle like an old woman. After a few days the pain eased but still hadn’t gone, I saw a different GP who gave me a different set of antibiotics. It took weeks for the pain and bleeding to go and subsequent trips back to the GP.
The molar pregnancy went unconfirmed and when I finally healed we started to try again for a baby. It didn’t happen as quickly this time and as each month went by the hurt deepened. After 7 months I finally had a positive pregnancy test. However, at 10 weeks I started to bleed. This time the sheer volume of blood and the cramping reminiscent of labour pain meant I was certain I was miscarrying. I rang the midwife who said to get to my GP. The GP I saw was fantastic. She was worried because my pain was more concentrated on one side so sent me straight to hospital with a possible ectopic. We weren’t really prepared and I had nothing with me so my husband went out and bought me pyjamas and slippers. I was given a private room and the staff were really helpful and friendly. I had to stay overnight as the radiographers had gone home for the day so I had to wait until the following morning for my scan. I remember being quite relaxed, this time there was no confusion, I knew what was happening and I had my own space to gather my thoughts and emotions.
My husband returned the following morning and we had our scan which confirmed what we already knew. It wasn’t an ectopic but I had miscarried. This time it was a private scan with no wailing people in the corridors, it felt very different to the first time. A week after coming home I answered the door to find the community midwife on the doorstep. ‘I’ve come to do your home visit ‘ she said. Nobody had passed on the information about the miscarriage. Thankfully I knew the midwife quite well by this point and I knew the remorse that she showed was genuine.
For the next 10 months the urge to have a healthy pregnancy consumed me. I would watch pregnant women when I was at the park with my daughter and be overcome with jealousy. Each month was like a torture until eventually I resigned myself to the likelihood of us only ever having one child. Soon after I fell pregnant. I was so desperately worried for the first trimester and couldn’t relax until I had passed the 13 week stage. Every little pain sent me into a frenzy and when my husband went abroad for a week I was so worried that I would lose the baby while he was away. My midwives understood my concerns and gave me early scans which were reassuring. I was lucky, this was a healthy pregnancy and I went on to have another. I am now blessed with 3 beautiful girls.
Mumsnet are currently running a Better Miscarriage Care Campaign. This calls for a 5 point code of care.
- Supportive Staff – my experience would have been far more positive if staff had been trained in communication and listening skills and if I had been given a routine follow-up and offered counselling. Counselling should be for both parents as men are often forgotten in this whole process, if the care for women is shoddy then I would say that the men are given very little consideration.
- Access to Scanning – 7 days a week avoiding my experience of Monday morning mayhem.
- A Safe and Appropriate Place for Treatment – separate from women having routine antenatal care and termination of pregnancies.
- Good Information and Effective Treatment
- Joined Up Care – Community midwives are kept informed and concerns are acknowledged in later pregnancies.
I am sure that I am one of thousands of women with a story to tell about inadequate miscarriage care. Miscarriage is difficult enough without these added worries. Please support the Mumsnet campaign so that in the future women will feel supported and informed when going through such a difficult experience.