By Andrea May
Recently a very close family member of mine lost her first baby and it was totally devastating to her and her husband. With three normal pregnancies of my own I’d never truly considered how tragic such a loss could be or how fortunate I have been to not experience this.
After hearing the words ‘there’s no heartbeat’ at the 3 month scan she desperately needed practical professional support to deal with the loss. Instead she was sent home with a leaflet by the sonographer without seeing a nurse or a doctor. This leaflet detailed the options of waiting for a spontaneous miscarriage or having a surgical procedure. Imagine reading about these options rather than having them explained by a sympathetic professional.
When she decided to opt for medical inducement she phoned the number she had been given. She was told that this department would be expecting her call and would have all her details. They’d never heard of them and delayed things trying to find the misplaced records.
A further wait for an available date ensued and when the procedure finally happened her husband was not allowed to attend with her because there was no waiting space on the ward that day. She had to spend the day alone, waiting for, and then recovering from, the procedure.
If this was a hernia or an in-grown toenail then most of us would probably have been ok with these circumstances but this was a much wanted baby that was lost. The emotional drain on her was far higher than the physical one and watching it from the outside was awful. I really believe that the way her treatment was handled made things even worse than they already were. In thinking about this issue I’ve read a lot of personal accounts of miscarriage and spoken to several other women. They have all had differing experiences, some better, some worse, but many of them focused on the lack of immediate access to the right medical professionals and the feelings of confusion and lack of understanding of what had happened and the options available to them.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I have enormous respect for the medical professionals who work in this arena, they work hard and they really do care but there is a significant lack of resources in many areas. Staff do the best that they can but on this occasion, and many others, the process let the patient down.
There is a lot of support out there for women and their partners who have suffered miscarriage however most of this kicks in later in the process and offers support with the bereavement. These organisations are amazing but how much more fantastic it would be if such support could start as soon as the worst happened.
Happily, there is now a new baby on the way in our family and she has now reached 18 weeks gestation but the experience she had last time has tainted her enjoyment of this pregnancy and there has been no recognition of her previous experience by the medical staff she has so far dealt with. The reality is that physically she is not a high risk pregnancy and therefore requires no special treatment but emotionally some extra support would have really helped make this a more positive pregnancy experience.
I don’t know what the answer is, 15% of confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage and resources are precious, but the emotional welfare of mums to be is as important as the physical. Pregnancy, birth and early motherhood are hard when nothing goes wrong so the more support that those who have previously lost babies can get the better.