Once you open up about baby loss, it's like a ripple effect

Gemma and Dan had their first daughter in 2016, but have since experienced 7 pregnancy losses. They were supported by our team at Birmingham Women’s Hospital.

Our first three pregnancies

Dan and I had our daughter in January 2016, and we had absolutely no problems. We fell pregnant within a year, and I had what felt like the easiest, most complications free pregnancy and birth there could be. About 3 or 4 years later, we decided to try again for a sibling for Darcy. It took us about the same amount of time to get pregnant again, but we experienced a miscarriage at 6 weeks.  

It felt so surreal, and because we couldn’t have a scan before 6 weeks the GP said he couldn’t even confirm that I had had a miscarriage. It was really upsetting.  

After that first loss, we fell pregnant again quite quickly, but we lost this baby again around the 6-week mark. Instead of going to our GP, we went to the EPAU and even though they couldn’t really help they were all so much kinder.  

Our third miscarriage was about the same time. All three had been nearly to the exact same day, at 6 weeks. After this we were referred to Tommy’s recurrent miscarriage clinic at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. They gave me loads of tests and scans and talked me through the different options I had for my next pregnancy. Oonagh and just the whole team were outstanding.  

They started me on progesterone, and while my fourth pregnancy got a little further than the others, it still ended in loss. But the experience of care was just so much better than I had had before.  

The team made it really clear that they wanted to investigate and try and find out what was going on.

Two ectopic pregnancies

I fell pregnant again but started experiencing some really strange pains. I thought it was just another miscarriage, but my sister-in-law who is a midwife told me to go to the hospital because it didn’t sound right. I had a scan and they confirmed it was an ectopic pregnancy on my right fallopian tube. They gave me methotrexate injections to dissolve the pregnancy right away. As soon as it happened, I told the team at Tommy’s, and they just gave me so much support, talking me through what we could try next and thinking about ways to help.  

Exactly 6 months later I fell pregnant again, and I was feeling really positive about it all. But then I started experiencing the exact same pains that I had previously and felt really unwell. I knew immediately it was another ectopic pregnancy, so I went straight to A&E. The scan showed that there was nothing in my womb and that there was a possible mass on my left fallopian tube.

Over the next week I was sent back and forth between the hospital and home, each time being told that perhaps I’d got my dates mixed up and that there might be a viable pregnancy still, but I knew what was happening. I was in so much pain, my symptoms were continuing to get worse and worse, and I was starting to feel really scared.  

I finally had another scan, and that nurse actually came with me to see the healthcare team who kept sending me away to tell them that they needed to act now. She reassured me that they should have listened to me straight away.  

I ended up having emergency surgery that day, and because it had been left so long the mass had ruptured. I had nearly a pint of blood in my abdomen and my fallopian tube was stuck to my bladder. The doctor said it was incredible I had survived. I just felt horrendous and wished they had listened to me sooner.  

Support from Tommy's

Tommy’s were there for me throughout the whole experience. Even though it was just via email, I felt so listened to and like they were really on our side. They made me feel like no matter whether I was pregnant or not, that I wasn’t alone.

At this point, we were really considering whether we keep doing this. The surgeon had told me I was inches away from dying, and we didn’t know whether we could risk it again, especially with our little one at home. Having two ectopic pregnancies, one on each side, is really rare. We decided to give it one more go and fell pregnant around Christmas 2022. The Tommy’s team at Birmingham Women’s hospital were just so incredible. 

They offered me a scan every week if I wanted it, and just showed so much care. It felt like nothing was too much trouble, and I never felt like a nuisance or that I was being neurotic.  

At one of our scans, we were told that baby had a heartbeat but was measuring smaller than they should have been for how far along I was. I was experiencing some bleeding, so the team were keeping a close eye, but I went home and sadly miscarried our 7th baby in January 2023.  

We took our baby into the hospital in a sandwich box, which was just so traumatic, but Tommy’s handled everything so compassionately and with so much care. They made everything that little bit easier. Genetic testing found that baby had an abnormality, so it was reassuring to have that clarity.  

I’m still feeling a bit all over the place. When we had our first daughter, we were the first in our circle to be pregnant. But now that we’re trying for our second, everyone around us is pregnant already with their second. It’s been really hard to come to terms with. We took for granted that we could give our daughter a sibling, and desperately wanted one for her, but no one tells you that just because you have one child it doesn’t mean you can have another.  

I reached out to my GP for support with my mental health following our losses, but they really didn’t help much. It was like they didn’t know where to put us, because baby loss support doesn’t fit their categories of help.

I spoke to the Tommy’s team at Birmingham who put me in touch with the Lily-Mae Foundation, and it made such a difference to talk to people who really understood what I’d been through. Through the foundation I was able to speak to a grief counsellor which also really helped.  

I’m just so grateful that Tommy’s supported me to get the help I needed.  

Advice for others

My advice to anyone going through pregnancy loss, is don’t be scared to open up. With our first couple of losses, we felt like we couldn’t tell anyone. It was almost like a sense of shame or not wanting people to think I was attention-seeking.  

But once I opened up I had so many positive conversations with people all around me. It was like a ripple effect; I was suddenly surrounded by people who had all been through loss themselves and had been keeping secrets too.  

Until you open up and break the cycle by telling someone, you wouldn’t know that they’d been through it as well. I’ve found such strong connections and friendships from speaking to others. It’s been a huge help and I wish I’d opened up sooner.  

I feel like I’m part of a community now, and while it took a lot of strength to speak to others, I’m so glad I did.