Why the Mumsnet #miscarriagecare campaign mattersPosted: 18/06/2014
Just seeing the word ‘miscarriage’ freezes my insides for a second or two.
I am one of the, sadly, many women who have experienced a miscarriage and it is something that I now realise I will never be able to shake off completely, despite going on to have a wonderful, healthy little girl and being lucky enough to (so far) have an event-free pregnancy this time around. Unfortunately, the emotional legacy of miscarriage at eleven weeks into my first pregnancy is all too present if I dwell on it too much.
Part of the reason for this is how unexpected it all was; it naively hadn’t even crossed my mind that we could loose the baby, so it came as a huge shock when it happened. And it is partly, I believe, the way my miscarriage was treated medically, which made a horrible situation that much harder to deal with.
Reading today about the Mumsnet #miscarriagecare campaign, I was not at all surprised to see the seven shocking facts about miscarriage care in the UK that the site’s recent survey has uncovered. The following particularly resonated with me:
- Half of all women who miscarry are treated alongside women with ongoing pregnancies.
- Half of women wait for over 24 hours for a scan to find out if their baby is still alive.
- Only 15% of women who miscarried at home felt they had the right support, information and pain relief.
I can remember in vivid detail the week of my miscarriage, which, ironically, happened almost exactly four years ago. I became worried that something was seriously wrong on the Monday evening, headed straight to the emergency walk in clinic the next morning but was then distraught to learn I had to wait until the Friday for a scan. I remember one nurse saying to me, “You know what the worst may be?” Of course I knew – and I could hardly bear to wait for so many days to find out.
It was the longest four days of my life. I Googled far too much, searching for reassurance that this didn’t mean the end of my pregnancy, clutching at every positive story. I sat on our bed and sobbed and spoke to the baby, willing it to be alright but knowing, deep down, that it wasn’t.
Nothing could have changed that sad outcome but, if I’d have been seen sooner, I would have been spared that awful week at least.
Realising you are in a room full of obviously pregnant women while you sit waiting to confirm whether you are still one of their number is pretty heartbreaking. But the real heartbreak came when I went in for my scan. The face of the woman who saw me is etched into my brain, as are her words: “I’m sorry…”
She wasn’t horrible to me by any means but her sympathy was detached. I suppose miscarriage is all too common and I was simply one of a long line of women. But, as I was shown into an adjoining room, bewildered, shocked, the news slowly sinking in, I felt raw from the clinical nature of it all.
We were given a few short moments of privacy, barely enough to look at each other bleakly and let out a few shuddering sobs. Then the woman came back in with some leaflets and explained my ‘options’. I just stared at her numbly, my brain too overwhelmed to take in anything other than the one awful fact that I no longer had a baby inside me.
And then we were hustled out of the room, leaflets in hand, to walk back past the happily expectant mothers and the couples leaving with their babies. I looked at the ground and walked as fast as I could, thinking “Get out. Get out. Get out before you break down completely.”
The next day, I looked at those leaflets again, trying to decide the best way to ‘manage’ this miscarriage. It was another huge shock to realise that the scan wasn’t the end of the matter; my body now had to expel the fetus, whether naturally or with medical help. I did more Googling and felt angry that I was being left alone to deal with this, with no follow up support offered and only a couple of leaflets to guide me.
I opted for the natural route, trusting my body to do what it needed to do. But I was confused. How long would it take? What was normal for this process? How much blood/pain should I expect? More Googling only led me to the conclusion that I was far from alone with all these questions.
Unfortunately my body didn’t know what it had to do and, six days later, I was admitted under borderline emergency conditions with an infection and requiring a D&C. This was the cherry on top of the whole traumatic experience. When I came to after the procedure, I asked the nurse, “Has my baby gone?” She nodded gently and I broke down.
Afterwards, I thought, “It’s over at least” but I had underestimated the emotional impact the miscarriage would continue to have.
Suddenly, there were babies and pregnant women everywhere. One after another, friends announced that they were expecting, at least one per month for the next six months! I tried to go out with single friends and drink and be merry but I remember looking around thinking, “I don’t want to be at a drunken party, I want to be pregnant and at home.” At the same time, I felt silly for grieving so hard for a baby I’d never had, for a pregnancy that lasted only 11 weeks.
Counselling was never mentioned; luckily, I am a talker and had amazing support in the form of my husband and family. We picked ourselves up and tried again, only to have another loss, albeit much earlier this time. I worried there was something wrong with me but was told there would be no investigations until I’d had three or more miscarriages. I suppose the NHS has to draw budgetary lines somewhere but, at the time, this felt like a cruel waiting game.
Then I fell pregnant again. This one would end happily, with the birth of our daughter, but I couldn’t bet on that at the time. I spent the first trimester on tenterhooks, made all the harder by some light spotting. Despite my anxiety, no extra scans or support were offered to help us through. We eventually decided to pay for a scan at 8 weeks, unable to bear the not knowing.
Despite our fears, all was well but I couldn’t relax completely. My over riding thought was, “If it hurt so much after 11 weeks, what must it feel like if it happens later on?” Thankfully, that’s something I never had to find out. We made it through and were blessed with our wonderful ToddlerGirl.
This pregnancy has been a lot easier but the scars of miscarriage are still there. I don’t have to dig too deep to relive those feelings from four years ago and my heart goes out to any woman going through it. There is generally nothing that can be done to prevent the miscarriage but I do firmly believe such a hard experience could be made less difficult with some changes to how it is treated and supported.
That’s why I am wholeheartedly behind the Mumsnet #miscarriagecare campaign.
First, for starting a conversation about miscarriage itself. All too often, it feels like something not to be dwelt on or discussed too much; perhaps it is too intangible for those on the outside to understand. But for many women who have been through it, the grief of losing a baby, albeit one that was only weeks old inside you, is very real and complex. There is an emotional legacy that can affect all future pregnancies. On top of that, there are often significant physical effects to deal with.
Second, I hope that the campaign can bring about some positive change: as the seven shocking facts highlighted by the campaign’s survey show us, there are many areas where miscarriage care could be improved. As a result, a Code of Care has been drafted highlighting the things that need to change:
- Supportive staff
- Access to scanning
- Appropriate treatment spaces
- Good information and effective treatment
- Joined-up care
These five simple principles are not asking for anything earth-shattering and it is indeed shocking that they are not already in practice. You can read more information on the Code of Care here.
To help make the Code a reality, Mumsnet is asking for as many people as possible to tweet or email the three politicians who can pledge to improve miscarriage care by 2020, the end of the next parliament:
- Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt)
- Andy Burnham (@andyburnhammp)
- Norman Lamb (@normanlamb)
There is also an email link on the Mumsnet website.
Let’s see if we can ensure the quarter of a million women in the UK who experience a miscarriage receive the support, information and care that they need.