Pregnancy Comes In All Shapes And Sizes
A Guest Post from Laura, Five Little Doves
Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Mental Health
Unfortunately miscarriage is not uncommon affecting around 1:6 pregnancies. 1:100 will have more than 3 miscarriages in a row. Stillbirth is much less common but happens too often. The effects of miscarriage, still birth, baby or neonatal loss can be felt deeply and have long term effects on the mental health of the mother and often the father too. With mental health evermore highlighted on the NHS agenda, this story from Laura goes some way to explain why it is crucial that we take care of mental health as well as the physical.
There is still a low level of awareness around miscarriage and stillbirth but that is set to change with the hard work charities such as SAND’s, Tommy’s and Kicks Count put in and the effort mothers like Laura put in to highlight the issue. Unsurprisingly baby loss is linked to PTSD. With increased awareness, better research, better staff training and better access to information it is hoped that we can reduce rates of baby loss and be better placed to help those who do suffer.
Over to Laura…
Tell us a little bit about you and your family.
My name is Laura, wife of one and mum of five, and we live in Lancashire where I’m a stay at home Mum. My children are Lewis, 13, Eva 5, Megan 4, Harrison 3 and Joseph who would have been 11 and yet was sadly stillborn in 2006.
Please tell us about your pregnancy / pregnancies. What complications did you experience?
Pregnancy has never been an easy ride for me, I have been pregnant 20 times over the years and lost 16 of those babies between 6 weeks and full term.
My miscarriages came as a huge surprise, especially the first at 13 weeks, and were all unexplained. My stillbirth was completely devastating, learning at full term that my son had died and again, the results were completely unexplained.
How did the miscarriages and stillbirth you experienced affect your mental health and your physical health?
Physically, it was tough. The miscarriages played havoc with my hormones and the stillbirth was excruciating, having to go through 35 hours of labour and experience all of the pain and after effects of a full term birth.
Mentally, it destroyed me. After losing Joseph I completely and utterly broke down. I was depressed, suicidal in fact, and was admitted to an eating disorders unit suffering with anorexia. Over the course of the next decade I was in and out f hospital, going through one therapy after another, never really feeling as though I was getting anywhere. It was the darkest time of my life, I’m genuinely not sure how I survived it.
Did you receive adequate support from health professionals before, during and after your pregnancy / pregnancies?
In my subsequent pregnancies I was given extra support throughout. I had CBT during my pregnancy with Eva, monitored three times a week and scanned fortnightly. I found it extremely hard to believe that she would be here safe and well, I felt as though I was simply bracing myself for the worst the whole time.
How did you find all the extra monitoring in hospital?
With hindsight I feel that it simply added to my fears. Every time I was monitored and the CTG showed a dip in the heart rate, or every scan where they questioned the growth, it fuelled my fear that something awful was about to happen. I guess had I refused extra monitoring the fear would have been equally great, I think in truth there was nothing they could do to make it easier for me. I could not relax until my babies were in my arms.
Did your complications impact on your birth choices? Where your birth choices ever discussed with you?
I was induced with the youngest three at 35 weeks due to concerns for their well being. Given what had happened with Joseph they didn’t want to hang around, and it wasn’t really up for discussion. I had to be monitored throughout my labour which meant I had to lie on the bed the whole time, that was something I really struggled with as it wasn’t how I had wanted my labours to go. That said, I just wanted my children here safely and by that point, I was happy to go along with anything they suggested.
How are you now?
I have good days and bad. I have times when I feel so thankful, so lucky and so happy to have four children in my arms, and I truly appreciate every moment. At the same time my heart physically aches for Joseph and the life he should have lived. I will never stop wondering who he would have been, nor feeling that life is so desperately unfair. I think something like that changes you forever and it’s a case of learning to live with it, however best you can.
In terms of the miscarriages I still cant believe that there were fifteen little babies that we never had the chance to meet. I have since had therapy for post traumatic stress which helped a little and I have regular CBT sessions when I find myself struggling a little with life.
What advice would you give to someone else going through a similar situation?
My advice would simply be, do whatever it takes to survive. There are no right or wrong answers, no set path that you must follow, no rules for grief that you must adhere to, it’s such a personal journey. Seeking out the right help is paramount, be that from a partner, a friend, a medical professional or one of the many charities offering advice and support at that time (Tommys, SANDS, Kicks count).
Read another guest post from Laura here on TalkingMums on the subject of mental health.
Follow Laura and her blog Five Little Doves