I’d spent all day trying desperately to get my 5 month old son to take a bottle. I needed him to take it because I was 8 weeks pregnant. I’d fallen pregnant accidentally but after the initial shock had subsided, I was over the moon. However, breastfeeding one baby while growing another was more than my body seemed to be able to cope with and I was horribly morning sick and exhausted. I remember so clearly how elated I felt when at about 6pm that evening my son finally gave in and drank formula for the first time.
Then I went to the loo and discovered I was bleeding. Not a little spotting, a lot of blood.
My husband came straight home and stayed with our son while I went to A&E to find out what was happening. I was frantic. Something was very, very wrong. I needed to see a Dr quickly.
Of course, it was Friday evening and A&E was already starting to fill up. So I took my place in the waiting room and tried to tell myself everything would be alright.
Almost two hours later, I was seen by a nurse who was kind but explained that, it being a Friday evening, there was no-one available to scan me. She did a pregnancy test (which still baffles me) and told me to go home and come back on Monday. My first baby had been induced early at that same hospital after a series of emergency scans all carried out over the weekend revealed he wasn’t getting enough blood supply. So I knew they could do scans over the weekend.
I explained this to the nurse and asked whether there was any way I could avoid having to wait all weekend panicking about whether I’d miscarried or not. Again, her manner was very kind, as she explained to me that yes, emergency scans could happen on the weekend but that this didn’t count as an emergency.
What? Here I was losing my baby and she was telling me it wasn’t an emergency. How could that be?
Patiently, the nurse explained that when I’d come in late in pregnancy with problems I’d been seen straight away because something could be done. At 8 weeks, whether I was miscarrying or not, there was nothing they could do. So I didn’t qualify for their limited scanning resources.
“Go home. Try not to worry. C ome back on Monday and we’ll scan you and see if you are still pregnant.”
That was it. Condemned to a weekend locked in the bathroom monitoring the bleeding and sobbing while my husband took our son for long walks in the park so he didn’t have to see Mummy upset.
First thing on Monday I was back – not in A&E but in the hospital’s Early Pregnancy Unit. Again I had almost a two hour wait, this time with the added pressure of it being in a room full of happy couples awaiting their routine scans. By now I knew the news would be bad. Having to listen to people discussing whether to find out their babies sex, hoping they weren’t having triplets, wondering what colour their baby’s hair would be, just reinforced how much I had lost. I tried not to cry because I didn’t want to ruin the moment for them.
Then the scan. No heartbeat. No more baby.
I’d spent 2 days in the bathroom already and couldn’t face any more. I wanted the process to be over. Apart from anything else, I had a 5 month old baby to look after. I couldn’t spend up to 2 weeks bleeding and in pain. I asked for an ERPC but was told this was not an option.
“Go home. Wait. If the bleeding has stopped after 14 days wait another week then take a pregnancy test. If it hasn’t come back.”
That was it. No counselling, not even pain killers.
It was all so horribly routine for the doctors. 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. They know this and there is nothing they can do to change that or save the pregnancies.
BUT what about the mothers?
The doctors could definitely help us. Not by saving our pregnancies, but by supporting us through their loss both physically (by giving us pain relief and the option of surgical intervention to speed things up) and emotionally via counselling.
After my miscarriage was complete, I fell pregnant again immediately because I felt I needed to replace the pregnancy I’d lost. During that pregnancy, I developed quite serious ante-natal depression. Would this have happened if I’d received medical help to deal with the emotional impact of the miscarriage. I don’t know but I doubt it.
Mumsnet has carried out a survey of members’ experience of miscarriage and it seems my experience is only too common. Here are some of the findings:
- 46% had to wait over 24 hours for a scan to determine if their baby was still alive, with 18% waiting longer than three day
- Half were treated alongside women with ongoing pregnancies
- A third of those who miscarried at home following a scan were not offered any pain relief, or adequate pain relief
- 58% wanted counselling, but only 12% were offered it
- 56% wanted further medical care but only 26% were offered it
- Only 15% of women who miscarried at home following a scan felt they had the right support, information and pain relief to manage
While the loss of a pregnancy is, statistically, an every day occurrence, the medical profession needs to recognise that there is nothing every day about it for the woman miscarrying. Nothing at all.
That’s why I’m supporting Mumsnet’s campaign for a five-point Miscarriage Code of Care, which calls for straightforward improvements in the treatment parents receive:
- Supportive staff
- Access to scanning
- Safe and appropriate places for treatment
- Good information and effective treatment
- Joined-up care
You can support it too, by contacting the politicians who can make sure improved miscarriage care gets on the parliamentary agenda. They are:
- Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt – firstname.lastname@example.org or @Jeremy_Hunt
- Labour Shadow Health Spokesman Andy Burnham – email@example.com or @andyburnhammp
- LibDem Health Minister Norman Lamb – firstname.lastname@example.org or @normanlamb
We need to ask them to include a promise in their next manifesto to make miscarriage care better. Accounts of personal experiences are particularly effective for explaining why we need their support, but here’s some suggested text to start you off.
Dear xxxx, I know you’ll be concerned about the care received by women who miscarry so please let me know you’re backing M umsnet’s campaign for better miscarriage care. I’m asking you to include a manifesto commitment to improve miscarriage care for all women by 2020.