Wednesday, 15 August 2018

How Do I Know If I Am Having A Miscarriage?


*Trigger warning: baby loss*

"How do I know if I am having a miscarriage?" is a question I have asked myself many times this year and I have come to one conclusion: you can only really know when you have a scan and the ultrasound confirms there is no heartbeat. If you have found this page after a worried Google then read on to find out my experiences of suspected and confirmed miscarriages in early pregnancy.

Scan pictures paperclipped to the front of a hospital file


The first time I was pregnant I had a small amount of bleeding in the first trimester. Of course I was worried and Googled and cried to my mum. I think I might have spoken to my GP too. They all gave the same reassurance: if you have a miscarriage you will know. There will be lots of pain and lots of blood. I now know that while that this can be true it isn't always the case. Yes at some point there will be blood and pain, the remains of the baby will inevitably have to leave your body, but I now know there could be weeks between the baby’s heart stopping and fully losing the baby. In the interim you might never know you have lost the baby. There may be a reduction in pregnancy symptoms, you may have suspicions, but until you have a scan you won't know for sure.

In contrast you could have a large amount of bleeding and yet it all turns out ok. I was in my first pregnancy and Amber shared how she believed she had a miscarriage due to blood loss, but when she had a scan there was a heartbeat. At the next scan there was still a heartbeat. And as I write she is around 28 weeks pregnant with a growing baby belly. 

My First Suspected Miscarriage 


The first baby I lost I stopped feeling pregnant around 7 weeks. My nausea went, I felt less tired, one day I just stopped feeling pregnant. Over the next couple of weeks I had some days I felt totally normal and others I felt slightly pregnant. I had twinges, but that is to be expected throughout pregnancy. I went from convinced I had lost the baby to believing maybe there was a hope.

It was only when I went for a private scan 2 weeks later they confirmed I had lost the baby. It was another day after that before the bleeding started and yet another day before the blood loss became really heavy and I ended up in hospital feeling faint.

My Second Suspected Miscarriage


The second baby I lost was around 6 weeks. Again I went from having pregnancy symptoms to feeling nothing. I had twinges again, although this time round I called them cramps due to my anxiety of losing the baby. I had a small amount of blood loss one day on a tissue when I wiped after having a wee, but it was no more than a trace of pink. It is normal to have a small amount of spotting, the cervix can be very sensitive and there might be a trace of blood after having sex or anything else which knocks the cervix.

Over the next 2 weeks I was convinced I had lost the baby, but as I knew I wouldn’t be trying for another I was in no rush to have this confirmed, I would let the baby leave in it’s own time. This would be my last pregnancy and I wanted it to last even if I knew I wouldn’t hold the baby. I had some pregnancy symptoms reappear and eventually booked a private scan because at 8 weeks I was driving myself mad. 

At the scan I burst into tears when they found a heartbeat. I couldn’t believe it. I had been grieving, moving on and yet I still had a baby growing in me, a baby who measured correctly for the dates. I spent the next couple of weeks trying to get used to the idea that I might after all have a 3rd child. 

I had another scan at 10 weeks because I needed the reassurance. Again there was a heartbeat and while I was concerned that it was now measuring slightly out on dates, the doctor wasn’t worried. She said it was because the baby was curled up and if she plotted the measurement freehand the dates looked correct.

But she also spotted something else at this scan. There was a second egg sack. An empty egg sack. Just like the one at my first miscarriage. She said it looked like I had conceived identical twins, but that I had lost one of the babies. I believe that is what happened at 6 weeks.

The view out of an A&E booth with a clock and blue clinical curtain visible

My Final Pregnancy 


As I write I am 18 weeks pregnant. I am anxious and over analyse ever pain and symptom. I dread going to the toilet in case I find blood and I wait for the next scan and midwife appointments to see if I still have a baby with a beating heart, although the 12 week scan went well and I heard the heartbeat at 17 weeks too. I don’t trust pregnancy symptoms because you still can have those for a while after losing the baby. I didn’t realise until after my first miscarriage that it can take several weeks until after the remains of the baby are removed (naturally or by intervention) before a pregnancy test shows as negative again. There is no way of knowing if everything is ok without a scan.

As pregnancies progress you can use dopplers, but the use of apps and home dopplers by the untrained can provide false reassurance. I am now starting to feel movement and as they get bigger I will count the kicks and maybe finally feel that the baby is doing ok, but I wonder if I will ever lose the anxiety with this pregnancy. Will I even be able to relax if I get to hold them, heart beating in my arms?

Having a miscarriage stays with you. It might not be what you think of all the time, but it is always there and you might think about it at times you didn’t expect. Pregnancy after miscarriage is hard too and all the stories of rainbow babies are unlikely to be enough because you will know it is all lies. You will know that you never really know if your baby is ok other than when you can see and hear them.

If you suspect you are having a miscarriage I recommend going to your nearest Early Pregnancy Unit and requesting a scan. If they are difficult there are private clinics all over the country which provide reassurance scans for less than £100. I appreciate this is a lot of money for some, but I found them worth every penny for the knowledge they gave me (both good and bad).

Finally, you don't need to go to hospital at any point if you are having an early miscarriage and you can choose to manage it naturally at home as long as the pain is manageable and you don't feel faint from blood loss. Always seek medical advice where appropriate.

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