The agony of miscarriage

13 April 2019

Infographic: Emma Lawson

An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies end due to miscarriage or pregnancy loss, yet it's rarely spoken about

There are  no official statistics for the number of women who lose a baby. Because a large number of miscarriages happen before a woman finds out that she is pregnant, estimating how many women miscarry yearly is very difficult. The odds of having a miscarriage decline as pregnancy progresses, as 80% of miscarriages occur within the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Pregnancy losses occur due to factors outside of a women’s control. Genetic issues are a major cause of miscarriage in early pregnancy and nothing can be done about them. There is currently a large amount of medical research being done about miscarriage and its causes.

Azure Davey lost her daughter 15 weeks after the unborn child was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome.

Davey was excited to become a mum. She couldn’t wait for the arrival of her daughter and had been preparing for months, but twelve weeks into her pregnancy, her daughter was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome.

Turner syndrome is a genetic condition which affects female babies. It affects development and can lead to a large number of issues if the child survives. Very few pregnancies where the child has been diagnosed with Turner Syndrome result in a live birth.

Three weeks after the diagnosis, Azure lost her daughter.

“I didn’t want the nightmare to be real.” Azure said.

“We stayed at the clinic for two hours, the hardest part was when my husband had to take her body to the hospital in a white box on the same day.”

“The pain is the most awful grief I had ever felt, the anxiety and depression unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, eat or even dress. I didn’t even know what day of the week it was and I didn’t feel safe in the world in fact some days I didn’t know how I was going to make it to the next. I felt it was so cruel and unjustified I spent months thinking about what could I have done better and my whole world was dark.”

“The loss you have endured is life changing but what they don’t tell you is how it makes you a more of a beautiful, caring, empathetic, selfless version of yourself. I’m grateful that my angel made me a better mummy to her big sister and made me feel so thankful for the small things in life, and to never take for granted the love you feel for your family.”

“I’m now nearly 7 months in of grieving that terrible loss and feeling like I have found my strength again, I’m laughing and would say 90% my old annoying self.”

Kate Accott, had a difficult pregnancy, she suffered from severe nausea and at 7 weeks she bled heavily and at almost five months, she miscarried her baby.

“I was bleeding heavily and in agony I’ve never felt before.”

Kate rushed to Accident and Emergency and was told to come back to the hospital in four hours when the scanner would be there, they supplied her with paracetamol.

Upon her return to the hospital, she was seen by a junior doctor who was shocked at the blood and kept leaving the room for advice. He seemed unsure of what he was doing. Kate was given morphine and admitted to the hospital.

In the early morning, the pain intensified.

“I was taken to emergency where I asked the male nurse if we were going to both die. I was terrified. My baby was alive but [my water had broken early.] He said [babies] can survive like this. I was hopeful.”

Kate was given more pain medicine and was eventually sent for another scan, which showed she had lost her baby.

“There was placenta stuck so [I] had a D&C (dilation and curettage). When I woke up I was in a bed next to a lady who just had twins. Her husband and parents [were] all excited. I asked to be moved. They put me in a room with loads of bin bags. I began shaking uncontrollably so pressed a button for help.”

Kate was discharged the next day and was given a number to call if she was struggling.

“I didn’t leave the house alone for nearly 2 years. I’ve never faced this. Barely thought about it. Never dealt with it. The pain is too great. The pain will forever be there for who I lost. A piece of my heart died that day.”

Felicia Marie Ulisse, 32, miscarried her baby at nine weeks, after doctors repeatedly told her that she was not pregnant.

Felicia lost her baby. Photograph: Felicia Ulisse

Felicia had taken several pregnancy tests after she began having sharp pains, the three tests that she took all had mixed results. She made an appointment with her doctor and had tests and an ultrasound. The results showed that Felicia was not pregnant.

In the days that followed, Felicia underwent several more tests and ultrasounds as she was still experiencing a large amount of pain. The tests and the pain continued for a month, all the while, Felicia was still certain that she was pregnant.

“For hours I tried to convince myself it wasn’t a baby. But it was, and I looked it up and by the looks of it my baby was 7-9 weeks…I went to the emergency room to make sure I was ok, and the doctor wouldn’t help me at all because all the records showed negative [test results].

“How did I lose a baby that ‘wasn’t there’? Was there something more I didn’t do to find out?  I’m still hurting, still nauseous, still dizzy and now heartbroken.”

Azure, Kate and Felicia are not alone in their grief. Recently, celebrity Claire Holt spoke about her devastating miscarriage and in 2011, Nicola Sturgeon spoke of her own. Zara Tindall, the Queen’s granddaughter, also suffered a miscarriage, weeks after announcing to the public that she and husband Mike Tindall were expecting a second child.

Scottish and Glasgow based charities that provide support. Infographic: Emma Lawson

Miscarriages create a huge amount of pain for women and their families, which is why support is so important for those who lost their babies. There are a number of charities around the UK which are dedicated to helping those who have lost a child. There are also ones that provide support groups in and around the Glasgow area.

Statement from SAD. Infographic: Taylor McDaniel

The charity SAD (Support Around Death), which is run by the NHS, stated: “NHS Education for Scotland is a national board involved in training, education and workforce development for health and social care professionals. We do not provide support directly to women who have experienced a miscarriage.

“We have, however, developed a range of educational resources and interventions on bereavement-related topics for health and social care professionals, including some that focus on supporting staff to feel prepared to manage situations such as an intrauterine and neonatal death. These have been produced with input from a number of service providers, subject matter and clinical experts, including third sector organisations.”

Ruth Bender Atik, Director of the Miscarriage Association explained the support system that the charity has.

The MA association provides support. Photograph: ME Association website

“The Miscarriage Association is a UK wide charity, which offers support and information to anyone who has been through a miscarriage.”

The charity does not offer to counsel, but provides information, advice and highlights the importance of feelings. The charity has a staff helpline available as well as having network peer support volunteers (the volunteers are often those that have had a miscarriage.

Atik said that a lot of women suffer from initial grief after a miscarriage.

“They are grieving for a life that has not yet been.”

Studies have shown that women who have a pregnancy loss suffer from depression and anxiety following the loss, due to the large emotional distress that of losing a child. The study showed that the women begin to come to terms with the loss months after, but for some, it takes years to recover. For those women who do become symptomatic, depression or anxiety can persist for 1 to 3 years.

Atik said: “It’s a different type of depression that women have, it’s not like clinical depression.”

She also highlighted that a large number of women are put off having children in the future because of the trauma of having a miscarriage.

“High levels of anxiety in second pregnancy…some people might never try to have more children.”

Support Groups that are based around the country.

More information on the Miscarriage Association is available here.

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