My Miscarriage Experience

The First Signs
For me the first sign that I was miscarrying was bleeding. It wasn't gushing from me like you see on television and I wasn't in any pain. I know that bleeding is common throughout early pregnancy and so I was determined not to panic until I had been told it was bad news.

My partner had been at work so i'd left a message explaining that I had started to bleed, I was with my best friend when the bleeding had started so I had some support straight from the off. It sounds stupid but I hadn't thought to change my underwear or put a sanitary pad on to measure the amount I was bleeding. Thankfully my friend took charge and said to ring 111 to ask their advice. They told me to see a gp within two hours. My friend took me to my mums and we all just sat there waiting for my appointment time to roll around. I didn't cry until my partner came to my mums after work. As soon as I saw him there was a rush of emotion, I'm not sure what it was- I felt pain that he was suffering, that I was somehow responsible for the sadness and worry he was feeling. I'd already started to blame myself.

The advice from 111 had been to keep what I had passed. . As the world continued around us in the gps waiting room, I clutched a carrier bag of bloody tissue. It felt like an out of body experience, watching people coming and going, none of them knowing what I was holding. It was the most surreal moment of my life.

GP Appointment
I saw a lovely female gp who was very kind and reassuring. She offered me an internal exam to determine whether my cervix was closed. It was, which was a positive sign. She telephoned the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU) to book me in for an ultrasound and gave me a blood test form to check whether my HCG levels were rising.

I began bleeding on the Monday, I couldn't get an appointment for an ultrasound until the Wednesday. It was an agonising wait, especially as I continued to bleed. At this point I still hadn't experienced any pain and I interpreted that as a positive sign that our baby was going to be okay.

My HCG levels had been measured on Tuesday and they looked healthy and were at a level that indicated pregnancy. Based on this we had a small flutter of excitement that the ultrasound may show us our baby. Sadly that wasn't the case.

The Ultrasound
The sonographer struggled to see anything clearly via an external ultrasound. This was due to my uterus being filled with blood. I needed an internal ultrasound to determine what was happening but even then it was unclear exactly what was happening (click to find out about different types of ultrasounds).  As she described what she could or rather couldn't see I began to cry and my legs began to shake uncontrollably. It was an indescribable emotional pain.

Following the initial ultrasound myself and my partner were taken to a counselling room. We sat for a while. We cried. We questioned 'why us?', we even thought that maybe everything would still turn out alright. We were given plenty of information on coping with miscarriage. The team at the EPAU were fantastically empathetic and informative. They explained that my bloods were to be taken again the following day and I would receive a phone call with the results. If my HCG levels had doubled then there was hope, if they had dropped then a miscarriage was inevitable.

Confirmation of miscarriage
I received a phone call on the Friday afternoon confirming that my HCG levels had dropped and that I was in the process of losing my baby. At this point I had been bleeding consistently for five days but I had yet to experience any pain or extreme blood loss. This began the following day. It was mid-morning on the Saturday. It began with what felt like strong period pains. The bleeding got worse and I started to pass what was easily identifiable as pregnancy tissue and clots of varying sizes. I doubt that I will ever forget the feeling of passing what would have been my baby. I held my partners hand every time I went to the toilet. I couldn't deal with this alone. The combination of pain and bleeding continued for at least a week. In total my miscarriage experience lasted about 3 weeks. It certainly wasn't the painful gush of blood and it's over that the media had made me believe it would be.

I had a follow up ultrasound to confirm that the miscarriage was complete and that my uterus was empty of all pregnancy products. This was heartbreaking but also a relief and offered much needed closure after a long few weeks. I was relieved that I wouldn't need any medical intervention. Now the only thing left to deal with was the emotional aftermath. I am still dealing with it and suspect I will be for my entire life. I know how old that baby would have been. I still imagine what their face would be like. I still cry for the baby I lost but one thing I don't do is blame myself. I got through my miscarriage by telling myself that it was my body's way of protecting that baby. I believe that for some reason that baby would have suffered too much if it had been born. I believe I was being a good mother to that baby by letting it go and protecting it from suffering. That's how I survived without my mental health deteriorating or my relationship crumbling. I told myself I was being a good mother. I was suffering so my baby didn't have to.

I sincerely hope that you've read this post of of curiosity rather than necessity but if you are experiencing something similar i've written a post offering some advice on how to practically deal with a miscarriage.

Thank you for reading, 

The day I found out I was pregnant

Autistic and Pregnant, First Trimester, Finding Out I Was Pregnant
I have been pregnant twice. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 6 weeks. My second pregnancy has so far been successful. On both occasions the baby was very much planned and I was expecting a positive test, though that didn't prevent me from being surprised, shocked and a little fearful.

As we had agreed to try for a family I had been my usual logical self and had bought a pack of HCG pregnancy tests from Amazon. These were an affordable way for me to quell the constant 'am I pregnant?' anxiety. I was very aware that I was trying to get pregnant, to the point where it affected my everyday thought processes and certainly my attitude towards sex (more about that to follow).

From week three of every cycle I began testing every other day. I knew that the results would be unlikely to be accurate so early before a missed period but I was so concerned with the 'do's and don't s' of being pregnant that I needed to know if I were pregnant as soon as physically possible. I needed to be prepared, despite the anxiety it caused me.

In my first pregnancy I found out very early on at around five days before my period was due. The tests I had bought worked by showing a second pink line if the pregnancy hormone HCG was found in my urine. I knew that for a second line to appear there MUST be HCG in my system so when I got a very faint second line I interpreted it as a positive test. My partner did not, possibly due to his own fears around becoming a dad. He insisted that because the tests were cheap that they must be faulty. Even a second positive test a few days later did not convince him. This was a particularly distressing time for me as I knew I was pregnant but felt very alone and overwhelmed as he did not believe me. The news sunk in for him when I missed my first period and confirmed the pregnancy with a Clear Blue digital test that literally spelt out the word 'PREGNANT'.

Finding out we were pregnant after our miscarriage went the same way. I tested, saw a faint positive line and shared the news with my partner. He debated the validity of the test and the visibility of the line and so we bought a more expensive test and got a positive result that he was happy to accept.

The moment itself wasn't how I imagined it to be. There weren't any tears of joy, jumping on the spot or wild embraces. In actual fact he high-fived me and said 'congratulations you're pregnant'. Not the romanticised version that is portrayed in the media but a fitting moment for us and one we laugh about now. We can look back and laugh at the fact that on both occasions he didn't believe I was pregnant, despite all the evidence!

A Few Things I Learnt On The Day I Found Out I Was Pregnant...

  • Even if it's expected and planned you may still feel shocked, emotional and overwhelmed. It is possible to feel absolute joy and sheer terror simultaneously.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever comes to the surface. After our miscarriage I thought I would feel an overwhelming joy at being pregnant again but it was a moment of sadness and mourning for the little life that had been before it. I was happy and overjoyed at the thought of being a mum but in that moment I was reminded of what we had lost and the pain and fear of having to go through something similar again. 
  • Your partner may not react how you expect them to. Throughout all our discussions about getting pregnant my partner was loving, supportive and made me feel reassured and safe.This changed when we actually got pregnant and I initially felt shocked and let down. I now understand that he was also going through a range of emotions and his distance from me and lack of excitement was due to his own fears and anxieties. I often forget that he has emotions too!

Why I decided to stay on medication despite the risk to my unborn child

Autistic and Pregnant, First Trimester, Medication, Anti Depressants Use In Pregnancy, SertralineA bold title for a blog post but it's the truth. I'm not writing this post to cause controversy and I know that some people will not agree with the decision I made but for many people with a wide variety of health conditions it's a decision that needs to be made. As explained by my doctor, a lot of medication is not tested on pregnant women purely because of the ethics involved and because of that it's very difficult for medical professionals to know which medication is safe. Tests are performed on pregnant animals, something which doesn't sit well with me but I do understand the need for it. So often the best a doctor can tell you is how the medication affects animal fetuses and then it's down to you to decide if it's a risk worth taking.

Before we decided to try for a baby I spoke to a few doctors about the implications of staying on my medication and I got a very wide range of responses. I have been taking 100mg Sertraline daily for many years now and have found that it has greatly assisted me in keeping my mood stable, my emotions under control and my obsessive compulsive tendacies at a manageble level.  The first doctor I spoke to was very understanding of why I take Sertraline and said that sometimes the risk to baby is small in comparison to the risk to the mother if they come off medication. At the time I was relieved to hear this, it was reassuring to know that I had some support if I decided to stay on the tablets. The next doctor I spoke to had the complete opposite opinion and almost demanded that I stop taking my medication immediately. This was very daunting for me. This doctor also said that having autism didn't have an effect on pregnancy and vice versa. This is not the case, autism is a factor in everything I do and pregnancy is sadly no exception. I am self aware enough to know that pregnancy would have a huge effect on my body, my mental stability, my 'rules' and that it could be a potential trigger for a bout of serious mental illness. I found her lack of understanding very upsetting. The last doctor I saw offered a more balanced viewpoint and fully explained the research behind what she said. She informed me that animal studies have shown a slight increase in the chances of a heart defect. She also said that there is no human research to compare that to. I was also informed that I could switch to an older antidepressant for the first 12 weeks and then back to Sertraline for the rest of the pregnancy. I left this appointment feeling like i'd been given a full explanation of my options though the difficult decision was still to be made.

My partner and I spoke at length about our options and I talked it through with a close friend and my mum. Ultimately though the decision lay with me. Only I know what my mind and body can endure and I had made my decision which thankfully was supported by those around me. I had decided that the risk to myself was greater than the risk to my baby. I knew that changing medication temporarily wouldn't work for me. The older drugs offered had caused me many side effects before and as I had settled so well on the Sertraline withdrawing from it altogether wasn't a viable option for me, I feared my mental health would decline to a point where I was at risk. As explained by that first doctor 'an unhealthy mum can't grow a healthy baby' and she was right. Pregnancy is difficult enough without adding antidepressant withdrawal and medication upheaval to the mix. In order to do the best for my baby I had to do what was best for myself. It wasn't an easy decision and I know that if anything is wrong with my child then I will blame myself as I carried on taking the tablets. My only defence is that I did what I thought was right and I tried my best which is all any mum ever strives to do.