* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
I lost my baby during the pandemic. I’m grateful to people like Meghan Markle for talking openly about miscarriage - it’s not something you should have to face alone
By Karen Hanson, co-founder of the Fertility Circle app
When I read the words Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, used to describe her pregnancy loss during the pandemic in June, I froze at my desk. ‘The pain of the loss… the unbearable grief... and the perpetual cycle of solitary mourning’ - all of it, sadly, I know only too well. Meghan’s experience triggered memories of the baby I lost in April during the pandemic. The baby whose due date is approaching any day now. The grief still overwhelms me.
Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to miscarriage, having experienced multiple rounds of IVF and six pregnancy losses in the last seven years before this one. Seeing a pink positive line on a pregnancy test should fill you with happiness but, after so many devastating disappointments, the sad truth is I’ve come to dread a positive result.
This year in April, was no different. But just as I started to relax, it was time for our first scan. When I heard the doctor once again utter the shattering words, “I’m sorry, it’s not good news”, I felt that same crushing feeling I’d felt before.
To make it even worse, it wasn’t a ‘simple’ miscarriage from a medical perspective. After leaving that scan, I then spent the next six weeks bleeding. I was grieving while frightened at the same time. I ended up needing surgical intervention, which I’m actually grateful for as it finally brought closure after such a long wait.
I was lucky I got the hospital care I needed but I know of other women who were told their hospital was too busy and they had to carry on their daily lives, while carrying their miscarried baby. The emotional pain is unimaginable. My heart breaks for these women who suffered this way - and quite often, in silence.
After my other pregnancy losses in previous years, I’d distracted myself with seeing friends, work, or doing fun stuff with my partner. But the pandemic this year prevented this and during lockdown, I retreated more into myself making the grief impossible to escape from.
Although my partner has always been supportive, he wasn’t able to attend the hospital with me for the procedure, which I was so upset about at the time. As I walked alone to the hospital, the pain of the loss, the dread of what was about to happen, and uncertainty about the future were compounded.
I wasn’t connected to any kind of support after the procedure and no one called me to check in. It’s a sad fact that 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and we know that pregnancy loss triggers trauma and emotional distress. This was certainly the case for me. According to pregnancy and baby loss charity, Tommy's, around a third of women suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a miscarriage - why isn’t more done to help people? I believe follow-up support should be part of the standard treatment protocol for women experiencing miscarriage. Like Meghan says, we need to share our pain somehow.
This is why it’s so essential that women in the public eye like Chrissy Teigen and Paloma Faith speak openly about their loss or fertility struggles. Some people might find it confronting but it’s critical to help break down the stigma. It helps us all move from a place of blame and self-loathing to a place of acceptance - to realise that they’re not alone and it’s not their fault.
Of course, coupled with this increased openness there needs to be more support for people experiencing this (both men and women) in the form of emotional, wellbeing, and mental health support. Only then will society be holding the space and offering the proper support that this life-changing experience deserves.
This is one of the reasons I set up the Fertility Circle app with my co-founder Abi this year. I wanted to do something to help others experiencing infertility and pregnancy loss, as well as empowering their future options. It goes some way to bridge that missing gap when the medics feel their job is done, but your heart is still broken and your mind is an emotional mess.
No one should ever have to face pregnancy loss alone. As Meghan says, we can help each other make the load of grief lighter.