In the UK, women can only access support after they have experienced three miscarriages in a row. However, a new draft Recurrent Miscarriage guideline has recently been submitted that would see women being able to get support after their first miscarriage.
Comedian Sophie McCartney @tiredandtested has been through two miscarriages of her own, posting her story via her Instagram channel and speaking out about her experience to break the taboo of the ‘M’ word. We spoke to her to find out more about her story and get her views on this latest breakthrough for parents-to-be.
What support did you receive at the time of your own miscarriages?
“My miscarriages were very different,” says Sophie. “The first time I was seven weeks pregnant, I miscarried at home on my own and really support-wise there were only the formalities, because I guess it was quite a straightforward early miscarriage in in the eyes of the doctors.
“There wasn't really anything else for them to do and I was sent merrily on my way – I didn't receive any kind of information, I wasn't offered any kind of aftercare, nobody is which is why this is so important, because I was literally just left to go off and deal with the trauma and everything that came with that on my own.
“I'm not criticizing the NHS or the medical care that I received, but I guess for them, they see it on a day-to-day basis. It's fairly run of the mill for them.”
Sophie’s second miscarriage happened during lockdown and was a missed miscarriage, so a lot more complex than her first.
“It was picked up again, from about seven or eight weeks. I didn't actually then miscarry until I was 11 weeks. So I knew throughout the whole process that it was more than likely going to happen.
“There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and they have to leave a certain amount of time before they could, morally I guess, call it a miscarriage, they have to give the embryo time to grow and time to progress. And then by 11 weeks, they told me that that wasn't going to happen. And then I had a medically managed miscarriage. So I was actually in hospital and they induced the miscarriage.
“After that, I was only really handed an information pack with a couple of leaflets, with the telephone numbers of some local support groups. Then they did actually call me a few weeks later, to ask how I was and if I needed more support. And when I asked what that was, they said, ‘Well, we can give you telephone numbers of local support groups’. There wasn't actually anything that was coming from them. “While it was something I felt that I was struggling with, it wasn't something that was managed by the NHS that they would be able to help you with on a one on one basis. It was very much you know, here’s somebody else who can put you in the direction of help. I was quite surprised that they did call and it kind of caught me off guard, I think I said ‘I'm okay, thanks for calling’. When I probably wasn't okay. But I'm pleased that they did call.”
Did you use any of the support groups that were suggested to you?
“No, I didn't. My second miscarriage was a traumatizing event, but because I was held in limbo for weeks, weeks of not knowing whether I was going to miscarry or not, and going back and forth and waiting and the uncertainty, for me that part was the most difficult part. I feel a little bit of guilt about it, but the point where they told me that the pregnancy wasn't going to continue was almost a relief, because I knew one way or another.
“A lot people ask about how you get over a miscarriage – I don't think you ever truly do get over it. It's just something that you learn to live alongside.”
What helped you most at the time of your miscarriages?
“With my first miscarriage I think I was probably so shocked about it that I actually didn't talk about it at all. So when the second miscarriage came along I was kind of feeling two in one. And I talked about it a lot more, I used my social platform, and spoke with my friends and family too, which I actually felt really helped me with dealing with the first miscarriage. I think everything from the first miscarriage that I shut away in a box came out during the process of the second miscarriage. And after it happened, I felt that it helped me shift some of that burden that I felt that I was carrying on my own.”
Were you aware about the current guidelines at the time, that you’d only receive support after three miscarriages?
“Again, it's one of those things that's just not really spoken about. But it was funny, actually, because when I was then talking about it with my friends, so many of them had actually had similar experiences. And I think that's when it came up in conversation about how many miscarriages people have had, and how many you have to have before something can be done.
“People would say well, there's no point asking why it's happening to you, because you've only had two. And it has always been that kind of context of people telling me well, there's no point going to somebody and asking, why.
“Not having or even being able to ask for those answers makes you feel very anxious. There was a part of me that when people said ‘would you try again for another baby?’ I actually would have gone into the ‘no’ category at the time, because I was so worried about being in the same situation. To go through the weeks of waiting, it’s the worst form of emotional torture – that I could have gone from either being like, ‘Am I pregnant? Or am I going to go to Tesco today and miscarry?’
“For me to think about putting myself back in a situation where it might happen again and not knowing the reasons why things didn't develop massively put me off the thought of trying again, when I knew I might miscarry.
'Any pregnancy after miscarriage is not the same'
“The new guidelines would mean that I would be able to go to a dedicated clinic and I'd be able to have those initial investigations that would have given me more reassurance. Any pregnancy after miscarriage is not the same as if you have a normal run of the mill pregnancy.
“With my first pregnancy I sailed through it and it was all fine. And then I had a miscarriage in between the birth of my son and my daughter. So in my daughter's pregnancy I was on tenterhooks the whole time. Every time I went to the toilet, I’d expect the worst. It meant that I didn't enjoy the pregnancy because I was so worried, because I didn't know why I’d miscarried, I didn't know if there was a specific reason for it, or whether it was just one of those things. You're constantly waiting for it to happen again.
“If these early miscarriages, first and second miscarriages are going to be investigated sooner, it just takes that edge off the anxiety. So if for example, you know that you are deficient in a certain hormone, or certain vitamins, then that's going to give you a lot more reassurance than if you were just going into your next pregnancy blindly not knowing why you had a miscarriage. So I think for a lot of women and for their partners, it's going to dramatically improve that experience for them and that anxiety.”
Do you have any advice for recovery after miscarriage?
“Being out on the other side of it, I get a lot of people messaging me asking how I got there. And I think you have to prepare yourself that there are hard times. It’s an emotional rough ride for those first few weeks and months afterwards. I personally took myself off social media so that I could deal with it, and took my initial support from my immediate family and friends before I felt strong enough to put myself back out there and talk about it very publicly.
“I do think that if and when you can talk about it, it does really help. Like I said, I don't think that you ever truly do get over a miscarriage, because I think you’ll never forget the emotion that it evokes at the time. Even now I’ll be perfectly well and normal on a day to day basis and then there’ll just be something that catches me completely off guard, something on the TV perhaps, and it will just bring back these emotions and I’ll need to go have a good cry. And then I'll be like, ‘I didn't know where that came from!’. As much as you can function and you can move on, you will always have those residual feelings, but being able to talk about it with my husband, or whoever it may, be lightens the load – you don't feel like you're carrying it around on your own.
“There are also amazing charities like Tommy’s and the Miscarriage Association that are literally just at the end of a phone, and sometimes it is easier to talk to somebody you don't know. It think that’s one of the reasons why we don't talk about miscarriage in society. We're not thinking about ourselves, we're actually thinking about how we impact other people – we don't want them to feel uncomfortable and we don't want them to feel awkward talking about the fact that we've lost babies.
“It can be hard to know how to respond, but when people say, ‘oh it’s normal, it happens all the time, you can get pregnant again’ I think trivializes the loss. When you're going through miscarriage, it doesn't feel normal. Not to mention at that point you’re not thinking about cracking on with it, you’ve just lost your baby. But I do think that the more we talk about it as a society, it will help shift how women are treated afterwards and how it's dealt with. This is definitely a step in the right direction to help assess whether things can be done in advance, prevent recurrent miscarriages and give women who’ve gone through a miscarriage more peace of mind.”