Ok, so I said I didn’t want to write about my miscarriages. However, this week Mumsnet published the results of its Miscarriage Care Survey showing that the treatment and support women receive following miscarriage is often less than ideal and fails to meet official national guidelines.
Did you know that half of women who miscarry have to wait more than 24 hours for a scan to find out if their baby is still alive, and are treated alongside women with healthy pregnancies? Or that 58% of women wanted counselling after miscarrying, but only 12% were offered it?
In a bid to improve NHS miscarriage care and lessen the trauma of pregnancy loss Mumsnet is calling for the three main political parties to pledge to improve the system, based on its Code of Care, by the end of the next parliament.
Of course achieving this means women like me need to speak out about our experience, or nothing will change. There is no doubt elements of my care were less than ideal, and despite considerable – and unusual – encouragement from Misery Guts I have felt absolutely no desire to blog about it. But if sharing my story means another woman doesn’t have to face what I did, I will.
So here goes:
When, at eight weeks pregnant in June 2013, I started bleeding it was more than 24 hours before I could have a scan to determine what was happening because the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit was only open part-time. In the meantime, not knowing whether my baby was alive or dead and totally unprepared for what was going to happen, I lost my baby in the bath at home.
Mumsnet’s Code of Care is calling for better access to scanning facilities including Early Pregnancy Assessment Units open seven days a week.
The following day, knowing I had miscarried, I was forced to walk past a bright and airy ante-natal waiting room where heavily pregnant women awaiting the safe arrival of their babies were rubbing their pregnant bellies to get to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. To add salt to the wound, in contrast to the ante-natal waiting area the unit was a tiny, drab, windowless ‘room’ with insufficient seating where patients were forced to stand.
Mumsnet’s Code of Care is calling for appropriate places of treatment for miscarrying mums, separated from women having routine ante-natal and post-natal care.
When I told the nurse prior to my scan what had happened in the bath the night before, she told me: “It’s best like that.”
Mumsnet’s Code of Care is calling for staff to be trained in communication and listening skills, including things NOT to say to women who are miscarrying.
Just three months later, at 10 weeks pregnant in September 2013, I had the misfortune to find myself in the Early Pregnancy Unit once again where a ‘missed’ miscarriage was diagnosed, meaning my baby had died but my body still thought, and behaved, as though I was pregnant.
As it appeared the baby had died two weeks earlier but was still in situ, I decided to opt for medication to ‘expel the contents of my womb’, as they sensitively worded it. I was asked by the nurse dispensing the drugs how many people had been present when the miscarriage was diagnosed because she told me there must be two sonographers there to confirm the baby had died, and if there was only one I needed another scan. There had been two sonographers present but I was speechless: how could there be any doubt?
As already mentioned, Mumsnet’s Code of Care is calling for staff to be trained in communication and listening skills, including things NOT to say to women who are miscarrying.
I was then packed off home with prescription painkillers, woefully unprepared by anyone at the hospital for what would happen next. In my shocked and numb state it simply didn’t occur to me that my baby would come out whole, perfectly wrapped in its protective pregnancy sac, and that as a result of its size, as I wept on the loo, I would have to actually ‘give birth’ to my dead baby. Surely I ought to have been prepared for this eventuality?
Mumsnet’s Code of Care is calling for all women experiencing miscarriage to receive clear and honest information, sympathetically delivered.
Sadly, the shortfalls don’t end there. On both occasions I was left to cancel previously booked midwife appointments at my GP surgery myself.
Mumsnet’s Code of Care is calling for joined-up care in which community midwife teams and GPs are informed immediately when miscarriage has occurred to avoid women who have miscarried being chased for ‘missed’ pregnancy appointments.
Of course I didn’t flag any of this up at the time – I was too distraught and the reality, and ramifications, of what was happening hadn’t sunk in. As time passed, I just wanted to forget about the whole sorry ordeal.
I don’t want pity, and I don’t want sympathy either: I have written this very difficult post to add my voice to the thousands of women who have already found the courage to speak out in the hope that the NHS trusts involved take action. I have also written it on behalf of the women who, quite understandably, don’t have the courage to speak out.
The three politicians who can make this happen are Jeremy Hunt, Andy Burnham and Norman Lamb. Mumsnet is calling for as many people as possible to tweet the following, asking for their support:
Hi @jeremy_hunt, @andyburnhammp & @normanlamb please pledge to improve #miscarriagecare http://tiny.mn/1xUnSpQ http://tiny.mn/1sbGQYv
If you don’t use Twitter, you can send an email to the politicians instead.
If anything you’ve read here sounds familiar, or if you’ve been moved by what you’ve read, I urge you to do the same.
And if you’ve been affected my miscarriage you can find additional help and support here.