I wasn’t going to write this post. At times I thought this issue was too much of a personal one to publish on here. But I realise that early miscarriage isn’t personal to me at all- one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and 75% of those occur within the first 12 weeks.
Out of the three times I’ve been pregnant, two have ended in early miscarriage (one at six weeks, the second at ten weeks). The October baby wasn’t meant to be, neither was the April baby.
I’m not after sympathy here – I have a beautiful daughter who is perfect in every way and if anything, my two ‘failed pregnancies’ mean that I cherish her all the more (she came in between the two). I’m only too aware that women (and men) go through far worse. I can’t begin to imagine the heartache that comes with a miscarriage late on in pregnancy, or the tragic loss of a baby soon after birth. Cases of early miscarriage do not even compare.
I simply want to share my experience here, as I feel it’s probably typical of the experience thousands of women go through every day – and perhaps things need to change.
My experience of early miscarriage
The first time it happened I hadn’t even registered the pregnancy with my GP, it was that early on. The second time I had – and we were looking forward to the 12 week dating scan in two weeks’ time. Both times I went to the doctor when I started to bleed. Both times I was told it was probably nothing. Both times I called back when the bleeding got worse. Both times I was told to go to A&E.
The first time I did go to A&E. I can’t remember the process exactly but at some point I was sent to the Early Pregnancy Assessment ward, where I was questioned by a bored nurse about how many pads I’d filled (one?) and told (again) that it was probably nothing. I knew it really wasn’t nothing and when I told her that I just didn’t feel pregnant, as I hadn’t felt any different, her response was that I was ‘probably just one of the lucky ones’…
I asked if I could have a scan and she told me she would book one in and I would have to return three days later. Three days (and much more bleeding) later, I was told by the sonographer that sadly there was no evidence of an amniotic sac.
The second time it happened, I didn’t even bother going to A&E. After being told by my GP that the bleeding was probably nothing and to wait until after the weekend (it was Thursday) I booked myself an appointment at a private clinic Saturday morning for £60. I just needed to know, I couldn’t stand the emotional torment that came with waiting.
They confirmed that the fetus had no heartbeat and at ten weeks I’d likely had what is known as a ‘missed miscarriage’ – my body still thought it was pregnant and hadn’t started the process of miscarriage even though the fetal pole had probably stopped growing a few weeks ago. Their advice was to go back to my doctor to get a referral for an NHS scan and discuss my options. By the time of my NHS scan three days later, my body had naturally miscarried and there was no amniotic sac to discuss.
Feeling like a fraud
The problem with early miscarriage is that you feel like a bit of a fraud. The health service doesn’t really want to know. After all there’s really nothing that can be done to stop an early miscarriage and it just has to run its course. I can’t speak for others, but I certainly felt like a bit of an inconvenience and I should just go home and accept whatever is to come – and quietly.
You’re not registered with a midwife until 12 weeks in, and the only confirmation that you’re even pregnant at all is your own home test – since your GP just takes your word for it when you make that first appointment. And the black fuzzy mass on the monitor when you do finally go for that scan…there’s no sign of pregnancy at all. Perhaps you imagined that small bump? You feel a little bit silly for even getting excited about a baby – you got carried away, you took it for granted.
Hardly anybody knew that you were pregnant. You didn’t want to tell anyone too early ‘in case something happens.’ Now that something has happened, there’s a part of you that wants everyone to know anyway. You want to talk about it, to tell them that you’re not feeling okay right now.
Are you or aren’t you?
The problem with early miscarriage is the not knowing. Being pregnant – at any stage – is so much more than a physical state. It’s a complete state of mind. Your whole world shifts from the minute you get that positive result and you start to envisage the pitter patter of tiny feet in eight month’s time. You’ve worked out your due date, downloaded a pregnancy app and you’re checking baby’s growth, you’re taking folic acid and you haven’t had a drink for weeks. Your whole purpose is geared towards growing a healthy baby…and then with that first glimpse of blood your heart sinks and you think the worse.
But the hope continues.
You turn to Google who reassures you that bleeding can happen in successful pregnancies, you convince yourself that there’s a perfectly normal explanation. Every time you go to the toilet and the blood seems less you convince yourself that you’ve overreacted and it was just a blip.
But really you know. Don’t you?
You just need it to be confirmed. The ‘not knowing’ is torture. The hope is torture. I can honestly say that when the sonographer in both of those cases confirmed the worst, what I felt was relief. A sad type of relief of course, but relief that I could now move on from the constant worries in my head and that pesky glimmer of hope. And to be honest, if there was in fact nothing wrong and I was still pregnant, surely all of that worrying and anxiety is no good for a pregnant woman?
A lack of follow-up
The problem with early miscarriage is the lack of follow-up support. I wasn’t offered any the first time. The second time I got to speak to a lovely nurse who talked me through the facts, answered any of my concerns and sent me on my way with some leaflets. To be honest, I wouldn’t have wanted much more than that. But people cope differently and that’s not to say that someone else shouldn’t be offered a little more follow up support.
I know personally that both of my early miscarriages affected me in different ways. The first one, although it occurred earlier on, affected me so much more. Partly because it was the first time I’d been pregnant and we’d allowed ourselves to feel the sheer joy and take having a baby as a given. Mostly because I already had Taylor at the time of the second one, and I found it impossible to stay angry/bitter/upset when I had her little face smiling back at me – if anything, it made me feel all the more blessed.
There’s also no testing offered until you have three consecutive miscarriages. Again, I get the stats – most women will go on to have children. However, I think if you’ve had more than one miscarriage, simple testing wouldn’t go amiss. Especially since the cause of repeated miscarriage can often be something treatable, such as a thyroid problem.
Anxiety throughout future pregnancies
But the real problem with early miscarriage (and miscarriage in general) is the joy it takes away from you and the anxiety it causes for any future pregnancies. I’ve never since had that same elation at the sight of a positive pregnancy test as I did on that first occasion (the joy that was abruptly cut short two weeks later).
Throughout the majority of my pregnancy with Taylor I was ‘on pins’, willing the weeks to pass by quicker, dreading those scans and a repeat of those words from the sonographer. The days couldn’t go by quick enough and every milestone we reached felt like a huge relief, rather than joyful anticipation. Having a baby wasn’t a guaranteed end of my pregnancy – at least not until we were on the home straight.
Pregnancies (the two we’ve had since that first one) aren’t big announcements for us, but come with the caveat of “it’s early days” and “fingers crossed!” Even uttering the words “I’m pregnant” feels like a bit of a jinx.
Unfortunately, early miscarriage is just something that happens, all too often. We just have to hope that in the end we will succeed and find some comfort in the statistics – most women who miscarry go on to have successful pregnancies and healthy babies. Like I did.
I can only speak from my experience, but personally, I think cases of early miscarriage should be treated with a little understanding of the emotional side effects.
Have you had an early miscarriage? What was your experience?