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Pregnancy after loss, miscarriage and being 40

Sophie writes about experiencing pregnancy loss twice in 14 months, how it affects her mental health and being in her 40s.

It’s a long road, probably, but one I have sadly trodden before. I don’t know what the future holds. I am told once again this was just ‘bad luck’. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking I have had my fair share by now.

I have been pregnant twice in the space of 14 months. Neither time has resulted in a baby. Both times have resulted in some kind of mental trauma.

I had very mixed feelings about becoming pregnant again second time round. It happened by chance and a part of me thought, ‘well that must be fate then’. Having lost a baby to foetal abnormality (Trisomy 21) last year followed by a subsequent managed miscarriage process, I was unsure I would be able to let myself go through this process of pregnancy again. Last time had left me with severe anxiety, PTSD and a kind of agoraphobia.

This time, it just happened, there had been no ‘trying’ – I was flung into the world of pregnancy, over 40 and after loss.

My head was spinning a lot at first. Terrified; what if it didn’t live OR what if it did and I couldn’t cope, the relationship wasn’t strong enough or what if I became unwell after its birth or during pregnancy. You can see that neither scenario was positive. I just found it too hard to imagine a positive outcome.

Despite this, the longer the pregnancy went on I found a new level of calm, at least within myself. I had a job to do, I was keeping the baby safe and being pregnant. That was it. I read ‘pregnancy after loss’ material and was very reassured that all the mixed emotions were normal. I did all the things I could to try and calm my worries, I talked it out and also took some level of distraction.

Because of last time, this was deemed a high risk pregnancy. Professionals didn’t seem to know too much about my previous experience. I found this quite traumatic, when at the first midwifery appointment they sat there congratulating me on my ‘first’ pregnancy. “No, we lost the last one”, I said and then the tone of the meeting inevitably became awkward. This trend would continue when I would tell a few friends (despite it being before 12 weeks, in anticipation that I may need them should it go wrong). “Congratulations!” they would say… “Well, sort of”, I would reply. Still not daring to believe anything nice might ever happen.

As a high-risk pregnancy, the suggestion came to have regular scans along with something called a NIPT test to test for abnormalities from ten weeks. At 6 weeks, we had a scan to confirm pregnancy was viable. My heart leapt when I saw that little flashing light. I thought, whatever happens, I saw you. It was a lovely feeling having never let myself see our previous pregnancy on a scan. I loved them so much.

I was pretty calm the first few weeks after that and knew I just had to wait for the 10-week scan. As that drew closer I became more and more worried. In hindsight, I think some of my symptoms had lessened, I had not felt as sick and the day before the scan I even texted my mum; ‘I don’t feel pregnant today.’

Sure enough, my body was telling me something. I started bleeding that night and after hours of worry we went to the EPU – they said it looked as though the baby had stopped developing at 8 weeks. This would be confirmed to us in a few hours with another scan, where they confirmed no heartbeat and that baby had died some two weeks previously.

What followed were days of waiting and light bleeding before a day or so of very heavy bleeding, contracting and some very unpleasant moments before we assumed the tissue had passed. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me – to us – again.

I was at home this time, mercifully. The managed miscarriage of the previous year in hospital had spun me out. Surely if I took control of the situation this time, I thought, I can minimise the trauma.

Time will tell on that. Following the pregnancy loss I returned back to the hospital with my Tupperware box and a confirmation it looked all to have passed, my womb lining was a bit too thick, but that would come away.

My mental health has been sketchy since. I am not happy with the doors or windows being open around me and I still haven’t left the house. But it’s early days. I find myself drawing and playing my piano. I am trying to rest because my body has been through an ordeal and I want to give myself the best chance to be strong enough to tackle any mental health difficulties that come. I have a care coordinator through the NHS who checks on my mental health. I think they will suggest more trauma CBT. I don’t know.

My partner has been offered support. Men are so often ignored in this. I am guilty of focusing this post on me. I must try to hold space for him too.

It’s a long road, probably, but one I have sadly trodden before. I don’t know what the future holds. I am told once again this was just ‘bad luck’. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking I have had my fair share by now.

For anyone reading this, I found talking to a good GP helps. Advocate for yourself. You have to push and push to get support. If you are experiencing any mental health problems tackle it from all angles, private, the NHS mental health service, the hospital perinatal care, the midwife, your work. Do whatever you need so that enough people can see you are asking for help.

Above all accept yourself for where you are, you are not to blame for the shitty hand you’ve been dealt. Say it over and over till you believe it because even though we have never met I promise you, you are not to blame.