TRIGGER WARNING: Baby loss. This post details the symptoms and diagnosis of a missed miscarriage.
I had my first miscarriage six years ago, back in June 2012. After being diagnosed with a missed miscarriage when I was 11 weeks pregnant. It shocked us and left us heartbroken. But thankfully, less than a year later we were blessed when Little Miss H arrived on the scene.
After six years, I’ve finally decided that I want to share the story of our first miscarriage. Yet, I’m not necessarily going to blog about the feelings and emotions around the miscarriage as I’ve written about that many times before (you can read about my emotional reaction to my third miscarriage in my post I Was Hoping). Instead, I’m going to write about the physiology of a missed miscarriage. The symptoms, the diagnosis and what it means to have a missed miscarriage medically managed.
There seems to be limited information about the physical experience of miscarrying. And I’ve even shied away from talking about it on my blog. Yet, once we were told that we were losing the baby, I clearly remember wanting to know what I was in for. Miscarriage and baby loss are physical, emotional and mental processes. But the physical part of miscarrying is rarely spoken about. I even recall one midwife saying:
“I won’t tell you what will happen as if I do, you won’t want to go through it.”
And when I asked another midwife if the symptom I’d experienced was normal, she simply said:
“It happens. It’s not going to be a pleasant experience.”
So I’ve decided to actually share the details of my miscarriages. In the hope, that it helps women who are going through a miscarriage or who’ve been diagnosed with a missed miscarriage. This is of course only my story. I’m not a doctor but I can share my experiences.
Symptoms And Diagnosis Of My First Missed Miscarriage
The Pregnancy & First Symptoms
We started trying for a baby at the beginning of April 2012 and were very fortunate that I got pregnant immediately. Everything seemed to have progressed normally. And I got to about 10/11 weeks pregnant without any problems. We’d even managed to go on a little babymoon to Rhodes. As far as we knew, I was growing a healthy baby in my belly and we were due to become parents in early 2013.
Then one day, just after lunch, I started to get some abdominal pains. I wasn’t concerned at first as I assumed it was the normal tweaks that you get in pregnancy. But Gradually as the day wore on the pains grew worse and worse. And I was very uncomfortable.
I went to bed that night wondering if something was wrong with the baby. I hoped that I was wrong and that the baby was fine. Yet, I feared the worst and I was worried that I was miscarrying. But everything I read on Google mentioned pains AND heavy bleeding. As I wasn’t bleeding, I didn’t think of phoning 111 or contacting a midwife.
I barely slept that night as the pains were quite intense and I was worried about the baby. In the morning, I noticed that the pains had increased in intensity. In fact, I could barely move with the pain. So I decided to phone 111 for some advice. Their main concern was whether the pregnancy was ectopic. However, as my pain was centralised and not isolated to one side they ruled out an ectopic pregnancy. They advised me to take some paracetamol and go to A&E.
A Trip To A&E
So Mr H and I went to A&E. It felt like we were there for ages. I was very scared that we were losing the baby and I just wanted to be seen quickly. I was desperate to be reassured that the baby was healthy. But while we were waiting, the pains started easing off for the first time in 24 hours. And I began to become more hopeful that it was just one of those unexplained pregnancy things.
At first, I saw a nurse and was handed a pregnancy test. The test came back positive. I appeared to still be pregnant or at least I was producing enough of the HCG pregnancy hormone to receive a positive test result. I was told to go back to the waiting room and I would be seen by a doctor shortly.
Eventually, we were called in to see the GP. He confirmed that the pregnancy test had come back with a positive result. The doctor then felt my tummy and said that everything appeared normal. He suggested that as I wasn’t bleeding and the pains had stopped, that everything was probably okay. But he decided to arrange a scan for the next day.
I went to bed that night with mixed feelings. The doctor had been reassuring but I was still worried about the baby.
The next day, I went to the scan with my Mum, as unfortunately, Mr H couldn’t attend. We were both feeling hopeful so I wasn’t worried that Mr H wouldn’t be with me. And at least my Mum was there for moral support.
Thankfully, when we got to the hospital we didn’t have to wait long for the scan. We went into the room and I was told that I would need to have an internal scan, as it would be more accurate. I lay on a bed and waited for the scan to begin. I was beginning to feel nervous. But my pains had stopped and I still wasn’t bleeding so I hoped that the baby would be okay.
The scan started and the sonographer became very quiet. She moved the screen away from me and didn’t say anything. I quickly realised that something was wrong. So I asked her:
“Is something wrong? Is the baby okay?”
And she turned to me and said the words that I will remember for the rest of my life.
“I’m sorry but it doesn’t look good.”
A Diagnosis Of A Missed Miscarriage
The sonographer then went on to say that the baby wasn’t the size it should be for 11 weeks. And that she was really struggling to find a heartbeat. But they would continue the scan and take some measurements. However, there was no real need. The baby had either never developed a heartbeat or their heart had stopped beating when I was 6 or 7 weeks pregnant. The baby was dead inside me but my body still thought it was pregnant and was continuing to produce pregnancy hormones.
As the sonographer completed the scan, silent tears began to roll down my face. I couldn’t believe that our baby was dead. It felt so surreal. So horrible. My mum held my hand and I cried quietly. At that point, I was so glad that my mum was there. And I suddenly felt like a vulnerable little girl who just wanted her mum to take the pain away. But I knew that my mum couldn’t take the pain away. The heartache was real. It had only taken a few seconds for my entire world to turn upside down. Suddenly a heartbreak that I would know forever had entered into my life.
Once the scan was over, I went to sit down with the midwife and sonographer to chat about the diagnosis. They told me once again, that the baby had died. That they had stopped growing when I was between six and seven weeks pregnant. But that my body still thought it was pregnant and was holding onto the baby. I was diagnosed with a missed miscarriage and was given various information leaflets about what that actually meant.
Until that day, I’d never heard of a missed miscarriage. And I never knew that a baby could die inside you and yet your body could hold onto that baby for weeks on end. It was a shock. Yet, amongst all of the many emotions that I felt, I also felt horrified that my dead child was inside me. I couldn’t bear that thought. Knowing that just added to the heartbreak that I was already feeling.
Managing The Missed Miscarriage
The midwife then told me that I needed to decide how I wanted to manage the miscarriage. And that I had three options to choose from:
1. Expectant management of the missed miscarriage
This is when you wait between seven and 14 days for your body to miscarry naturally. But it is impossible to guess how long this could take. There was a possibility I could start miscarrying the next day. However, there was also the chance that I might not miscarry within the 14-day window. And if the miscarriage hadn’t occurred within 14 days or wasn’t complete, then there was a possibility that I would need surgery.
2. Surgical management
The baby is removed surgically under general anaesthetic. I was told that there is a small risk that this surgery could damage the womb.
3. Medical management
This involves the insertion of pessaries which induce the miscarriage. However, I was warned that it might not work or the miscarriage may be incomplete. And if that was the case then I would need to have surgery.
Talking Through The Options
I listened to the midwife talking me through the options. Yet, I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying. I couldn’t stop thinking that none of this was what I wanted. I wanted our baby. And I wished that our baby was still growing inside me. Having to pick one of these unappealing options was not what I wanted. This was not what I’d chosen and this wasn’t fair. I couldn’t understand how I was no longer pregnant. Yet, only five minutes before, when I’d been sitting in the waiting room, I had been pregnant. How could everything have changed so quickly?
I didn’t feel old enough to decide how the miscarriage was managed. How could I decide what to do? So I turned to my mum. I longed to be a child again and have my parents make decisions for me. But I knew that this couldn’t happen. I knew that Mr H and I needed to talk things through and we needed to come to a conclusion as to how we would have the missed miscarriage managed.
Making A Decision
I left the Early Pregnancy Unit with lots of leaflets and I was told to go home and discuss my options with my husband. My Mum drove us home and I cried the whole way. I was desolate.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Mr H arrived home. I ran into his arms and he held me why I sobbed. We then started to discuss what needed to happen and how I was going to have the miscarriage managed. Mr H said that it was my body and that only I could make the decision. However, he would support me through it all and I wouldn’t be going through it alone.
Choosing To Have The Missed Miscarriage Medically Managed
It wasn’t long before I had chosen to have the miscarriage medically managed. There were a few reasons why I picked medical management:
1. Surgical management was ruled out quickly. I’m not a fan of general anaesthetics, as I have reacted badly to them in the past. And I didn’t want to wake up after the surgery and feel the emptiness that the baby had gone.
2. I didn’t want to wait. The thought of miscarrying at work or during one of my commutes terrified me. It made me feel sick.
3. I was really struggling with the fact that one minute I was pregnant and then the next second the pregnancy was over. Yet I hadn’t experienced anything (except the abdominal pains that only lasted 24 hours). And I felt that I needed to experience the miscarriage. I needed to go through the physical pain and the actual experience of miscarrying, to understand that our baby was no more. But I needed to do it on my terms. Nothing about the missed miscarriage was on my terms. Nothing. So I wanted to take back a little bit of control. And by choosing for the miscarriage to be medically managed, I felt that I was gaining some control of the situation.
And with the decision made I phoned the hospital and was given an appointment to see the consultant two days later.
Please come back on Wednesday to read the second part of this story – the medical management of the missed miscarriage. You can also watch a video of me talking about my symptoms and diagnosis of a missed miscarriage on my YouTube channel: