Gosh this is a difficult post to write. While I’m in the throws of endless baby cuddles, adoring smiles and giggles from my ten week old, it’s really strange to think that a year ago all I really felt about starting a family, was despair. My name’s Natasha and I’ve suffered recurrent miscarriages.
As soon as my husband and I married we started trying for a baby. I don’t think we ever sat down one night and talked seriously about a desire to start a family. I think it was more of an unspoken truth. Very early on we knew we wanted to be together and wanted to be married. Into a secure and happy marriage, we wanted to bring up a family of our own.
Very luckily I must have become pregnant on honeymoon, so pretty much straight away! I’m extremely in tune with my body, so every time I’ve been pregnant I’ve known very quickly, it’s more a question of knowing, but having to wait the prerequisite time to take a test and start the medical process. So nervously we waited a few weeks, had an initial booking in appointment with a community midwife, started the folic acid, cut out alcohol and anything good (it seemed like!), and then came the twelve week scan. As you search the screen for what you know should be there, seeing a tiny little, still, motionless, shadowy figure is heartbreaking. I knew straight away I’d had a missed miscarriage. This is where you have absolutely no signs or symptoms of miscarriage, you just rock up to a scan and your much longed for baby is gone. I chose to miscarry naturally rather than have any medical intervention. I’ve had three missed miscarriages and can only share my experience of choosing to deal with them on my own, naturally. I have no experience of any of the medical procedures you can opt for. I can’t stand hospitals, I don’t like needles, injections etc so this is why I chose to go home and deal with it all on my own.
In terms of the physical, no one really prepares you for what you feel and what happens. A miscarriage is like a mini labour. It can take days, you can experience contractions as bad as labour contractions and you can bleed for weeks afterwards. I’m not sure my miscarriages were more or less painful than labour, the main difference is that at home, sitting on the loo, standing in the shower or writhing around in agony in bed, you have no hospital grade pain relief. I miscarried at seven weeks, nine weeks and ten weeks, of course my body and my mind thought I was much further along as I only ever found out at twelve week scans. The physical pain for all three was excruciating.
In terms of the emotional, it’s difficult to describe. By my third miscarriage, I was convinced that the sonographer had got it wrong. I spent a good few days after that twelve week scan Googling positive outcomes, and stories of sonographers getting it wrong, and perfectly healthy babies being born after their mums had had a missed miscarriage scan, that kind of thing. I think in reality I was at the end of what I could cope with. While I found it relatively easy to get pregnant, endlessly dealing with loss, the highs and lows, the uncertainty and the dread of twelve week scans, pregnancy hormones had left me a bit of a wreck. In reality I’d spent almost eighteen months either pregnant or having a miscarriage.
In the UK, miscarriage is not investigated until you have suffered ‘recurrent miscarriages’. That is three or more. It took an awful lot for me to get an appointment for a referral after my third miscarriage to try to start the process of investigating if there was a medical reason for my recurrent miscarriages. Oh and don’t get me started on the length of time it takes to get a referral in the first place! Months! I had blood work done, some of which went walkies, making the whole process even more stressful.
There are so many medical reasons for miscarriage, just as many as non medical reasons. As irritating as it is, sometimes women are just unlucky. I won’t go into too many details here, but for me I did have a possible cause and so I took high strength vitamin D and a low dose aspirin before the next attempt. My care was taken over by a consultant with an interest in miscarriage and that meant that she was insistent the next time I became pregnant, and from the earliest opportunity, I should be scanned weekly. So from eight weeks I went for weekly scans. There is very good evidence that after recurrent miscarriage, weekly scans provide a much improved outcome. I’m sure rather than waiting twelve weeks, seeing your little bean still there jumping around, safe, and with a clear heartbeat on a weekly basis gives you that physiological boost. Trust me, the moment I left the scan room I worried for a full week something terrible would have happened.
My fourth pregnancy, with the weekly scans until thirteen weeks, the high strength vitamin D, the low dose aspirin, and quitting a horrifically stressful job, finally resulted in my gorgeous baby boy. I can’t pinpoint what worked exactly, whether it was a combination of things or I was just lucky that time.
Miscarriage sucks the joy out of any future pregnancy. I spent almost ten months worrying about having yet another miscarriage or still birth, because of what I’d been through previously. I was almost five months pregnant before I told anyone I worked with that I was pregnant, and even then I only told a couple of people.
Its bizarre that we don’t routinely talk about miscarriage. It’s a private and personal sorrow for so many couples. It’s something we go through alone and only feel able to talk about once there has been a positive outcome, or the hope for a family has been completely and irrevocably shattered. I can understand why it’s policy that the NHS will not investigate miscarriage until it’s recurrent. The chances are if you have a miscarriage it’s just unlucky, although without medical tests many of us go through recurrent miscarriage needlessly. One in five pregnancies allegedly end in miscarriage, I’d argue that this figure is probably an awful lot higher. If no one ever talks about it, or even presents to the medical community having suffered a miscarriage, how can we know the true figure?
As a highly educated society we need to talk more openly about miscarriage, it shouldn’t be a taboo. Women shouldn’t have to rely on Google for medical information or Internet forums for support. Vulnerable women shouldn’t be bullied into medical intervention to resolve miscarriage. Women should be made aware of the chance of miscarriage from the outset, along with their options for dealing with miscarriage. I was lucky, in that my hospital consultant took the time to scan me weekly, and while the evidence is clear that the outcome improves when this is offered, it is not routinely offered to women who have suffered recurrent miscarriage.
There is so much more we could do to support women who have experienced miscarriage. Number one has to be normalising it. Miscarriage is not rare, it’s experienced by so many women, sadly every day. We must share our experiences and we must normalise talking about the tragedy that is miscarriage.
The http://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk has excellent advice and resources along with support.