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Things I wish we all knew about miscarriage

Rachael shares her thoughts after experiencing a lengthy incomplete miscarriage.

Acknowledging their loss and how hard it must be is much more helpful than trying to diminish it... 'Do you want to chat?' was a really helpful question, or even give options - 'do you want a coffee/chat/distraction/some space?'. Sometimes just hearing 'I’m thinking of you' was all I needed.

‘I’m having a miscarriage’ – those are words you never hear. You rarely even hear ‘I’ve had a miscarriage’ as it’s still often not talked about.

I wanted to tell people, and felt I couldn’t even say those words because they weren’t true. I hadn’t had a miscarriage, I was still in the middle of it. I couldn’t put it in the past tense yet and that sadly, made me feel worse.

I wish we all knew… that a miscarriage can take a long time, not just the recovery, the actual miscarriage itself.

A miscarriage is normally referred to as an event, a moment that happened, in the past. Society and TV portrays that you had a baby, and then suddenly you didn’t. But that really isn’t the case, someone can be going through the process of miscarrying for a while, it can take days, weeks and sometimes months. However long, it can feel like an eternity when you’re going through it.

Can we normalise ‘miscarrying’ and ‘having a miscarriage’ as present tense terms for those people actively going through such a traumatic event? Miscarriage can be a long and difficult process, and for me was characterised by constantly needing to ‘wait and see how things are in another week’.

I wish we all knew… that you can be given a choice as to how to have your miscarriage.

I started miscarrying at nearly 10 weeks pregnant, and it took a week and a half to be officially told what I already knew, that we had lost the baby. As my miscarriage wasn’t complete I was informed that there was a choice to be made as to what to do next (who knew?). I was given lots of information about natural, medical and surgical management and chose to take some pills (medical management) to help my body to fully miscarry.

I wish we all knew… that a miscarriage can be a massive physical illness for your body, so ask people how they are feeling physically as well as emotionally.

The physical passing of the pregnancy tissue is often referred to as the ‘miscarriage’, and it involved way more blood than I could have thought possible and was actually medically similar to labour.

I found that people often asked afterwards about the emotional symptoms, and as helpful as that was and I felt no stigma or difficulty talking about my mental health, I felt it almost had gone so far the other way that I felt my physical symptoms were not recognised or acknowledged. I felt there was more taboo about talking about bleeding, and unfortunately I had a lot of ongoing issues with bleeding that I felt were or would be put down as ‘period problems’ and people either didn’t want to talk about it or it felt like you should just deal with it because bleeding is part of being female.

I wish we all knew… that sometimes miscarriages have ongoing complications, so don’t be afraid to push for further investigations if it doesn’t feel right.

Unfortunately after nearly two months of constant bleeding and trying countless medications, I was finally diagnosed with an incomplete miscarriage (I still had pregnancy tissue remaining). Then after another 4 weeks of seeing if it would resolve itself, I finally had an operation to remove the remaining tissue. And even after this, I continued to have ongoing issues and had to push for more investigations and treatment. My miscarriage continued to be incomplete for seven long months.

I had expected the emotional recovery to take a while, but I never expected the physical process to take so long with so many constant setbacks. I returned to work and had to go back off sick three times because of things repeatedly getting better then worse, luckily they have been incredibly supportive.

I wish we all knew… that hearing about other people’s pregnancies can be hard when you’re going through a miscarriage.

I’m not saying we can’t be incredibly happy for our friends and colleagues, but also just be aware that it can be emotional for anyone who has recently, or is currently still going through a miscarriage. It’s great to be excited, but try to be considerate too. Like that family member who asks about when you’re going to have kids, you never know when that is actually a really difficult subject for someone. And if you’re going through it and finding it difficult when people are putting their scans in your hands and talking about their awful pregnancy symptoms that you’d give anything to have back, it’s ok to find that hard and totally normal for it to make you feel sad. You can be both happy for them and sad for you, that’s ok.

I wish we all knew… that there is no right thing to say, but please try to avoid some of the obvious things that might be unhelpful.

A common one I had was people saying ‘at least you’re young and can try again’. Anything starting with ‘at least’ isn’t likely to be helpful. Whilst this is meant well, any attempt to reduce the loss and grief isn’t actually helpful. If someone was grieving a family member, you wouldn’t say ‘at least you have another grandma’!

Also, the assumption that you want to and/or will have no issues trying again isn’t correct for everyone, so please avoid it. Acknowledging their loss and how hard it must be is much more helpful than trying to diminish it.

I wish we all knew… that everyone will have different experiences and needs – don’t be afraid to ask or let people know what they/you need.

‘Do you want to chat?’ was a really helpful question, or even give options – ‘do you want a coffee/chat/distraction/some space?’. Sometimes just hearing ‘I’m thinking of you’ was all I needed.

Typing was easier for me than speaking due to the tearfulness from the hormone storm! Which was also very unexpected and totally out of character for me.

Everyone has different needs at different times. And do support the partner as well, they are grieving too.

I wish we all knew… that if someone isn’t drinking, don’t try to ‘catch them out’ by interrogating them to find out if they’re pregnant.

There are so many reasons why someone might not be drinking, just some of which could be fertility treatment, recent or current miscarriage. For whatever reason people choose not to drink, they shouldn’t be given the third degree.

I wish we all knew… that there are lots of helpful resources out there.

Particularly the Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s.

I found reading other people’s stories helpful to me in what to expect and feeling less alone. The Miscarriage Association resources for colleagues, managers and the workplace are also really helpful.

I wish we all knew… that we’re not alone.

It can feel really isolating but talk to who you want to, how you want to. Miscarriage happens in 1 in 4 pregnancies, it wasn’t your fault, and you will be ok. You have family and friends who love you and can help you get through this storm.