I'm so grateful for the findings of the PRISM trial

Debbie, 37, and lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and their 2 children. After having her daughter in 2017, Debbie was looking forward to growing their family, but sadly went through multiple miscarriages and a molar pregnancy. When she fell pregnant again in 2021, Debbie pushed for progesterone treatment after reading the results of our PRISM trial. This is her story.

My daughter was born 5 years ago

The pregnancy was what can only be described as “textbook”. After a relatively short labour and quick recovery, I was out and about within a couple of days, desperately proud to show her off. 

Like many mums in those hazy days of newborn bliss, I imagined myself with a home full of children. I didn’t really think about the reality of having 2 babies in such a short space of time, and within 9 months of having our daughter I was pregnant again. 

I never imagined my next pregnancy going wrong

Utterly delighted, it had never occurred to me that anything might go wrong – but on Valentine’s Day 2018, I had a miscarriage, and we lost the baby I thought would be our second child. 

In many ways I took this loss the hardest, even though I would have only been a couple of weeks into the pregnancy and hadn’t attended any scans or appointments. The only tangible proof there had ever been a baby were the pregnancy tests that I had kept, and my now broken heart. 

A few months later, I fell pregnant again

I was over the moon to be expecting and didn’t really consider that this pregnancy might not go well either. Surely we couldn’t be that unlucky? 

After having a small accident in my car, I went for an early scan just to make sure all was well. It was slightly too early to see much, but there was an egg sac there, and we booked to go back a week or so later for another check-up. Sure enough, we saw a healthy baby with a heartbeat, and I felt reassured.

On the day of our 12-week scan, we sat in the waiting room with all the other expectant parents, excited to see our baby on the screen. But as I lay on the bed, I heard the words: “I’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.”

In a blur, we were taken into a bereavement room, handed leaflets for charities we could speak to, and asked about what we wanted to do next. So many decisions needed to be made, but all I could think about was the fact that my baby had gone

We had surgical miscarriage management

We booked the procedure for the next day. As I closed my eyes to go under the anaesthetic, I remember thinking that, when I woke up, my baby would no longer be inside me. 

I was allowed to go home later that evening, again with a handful of leaflets. Our baby would be sent for post-mortem, but we were given no specific instructions not to try to conceive. I’d heard from many others that just after losing a baby can be a particularly fertile time, and with the desire for another baby growing ever stronger, I couldn’t think of anything else.

Then they told us we’d had a molar pregnancy

It was only with the results of the post-mortem that we learnt that we’d had a partial molar pregnancy. Not having heard anything about it before, I didn’t really understand what that meant. 

I did some research online and read that a complete molar pregnancy was where cells grew and your body thought it was pregnant, but there was no baby. 

I knew this couldn’t be the case with us, as we had seen our baby and heard their heartbeat. I was desperate for someone to reassure me of this, and the doctors did. I don’t know why it was so important for me to know that, but it was. 

I was told that I would need to take pregnancy tests to make sure my hCG levels were declining and would get back to normal, to be sure that I didn’t need follow-up treatment at a specialist centre. But as I took the tests, the lines were not getting fainter, and the hospital asked if there was any chance that I was pregnant again

An early scan showed a heartbeat

This had to be third time lucky. I didn’t count any chickens, though – I had been burnt enough times now to be cautious. 

The early pregnancy unit (EPU) at our local hospital were doing extra scans given our history, and as we reached the 9th week, we went in for another check-up. This time, we were seen by a consultant – and as the silence once more filled the room, she turned to us and simply said, “I don’t know what to say…”

At an appointment with the recurrent miscarriage consultant, we were offered genetic testing, but with an explanation that it may not show anything. We decided not to have the tests, but the post-mortem showed that there had been nothing wrong with the baby. In many ways that was harder. 

Falling pregnant during lockdown

The following summer, those two lines appeared on a test once again. My heart leapt. I knew everything would be different due to COVID-19 regulations, but I contacted the hospital and filled out the necessary forms. 

Then I started to bleed. I called the midwife and she told me to go in for a scan. I didn’t have a great deal of hope, but I went into hospital, alone. Restrictions meant my husband couldn’t be with me to hold my hand. 

The sonographer thought it might be an ectopic pregnancy

The midwife took me into the now familiar bereavement room. She couldn’t even put her hand on my arm to comfort me. She’d been with me for the previous 2 losses, but I couldn’t see her expression beneath her mask – it was unbearable.

I text my husband, who was waiting outside, to let him know that we wouldn’t be bringing this baby home. 

I asked about progesterone

I’d heard about it as a possible treatment for bleeding in early pregnancy, but the hospital explained that the consultant who might have prescribed it wasn’t working that day, so I went home without any. 

My baby passed a week later. It hadn’t been an ectopic pregnancy, but I had to have bloods taken every couple of days so the doctors could be sure. 

That’s when I got into running

The first time I went out, I couldn’t have hated it more. I only managed to get to the end of the road before I needed to stop and walk. It felt like that the next time too, and probably the time after that.  But, after a few weeks, I got home from a run and realised that I hadn’t absolutely loathed it – and then I started to enjoy it. 

I ran for babies that other families had lost

I started asking other bereaved parents on Instagram whether they wanted me to dedicate each run to their babies.

Writing their names on my hand gave me a reason to run, and the thought of their losses kept me going when I wanted to stop. I realised that I could raise some money with my running and decided to support Aching Arms and Tommy’s, challenging myself to run 365km in 6 months. 

The sponsorship came rolling in, the miles ticked by, and I reached my target in a few months as I found myself desperate to get my trainers on every day. I raised quite a lot of money for Tommy’s and registered for the London Landmarks Half Marathon

My body felt strong; my mind felt strong. In the back of my mind, I wondered – if I had got as fit and strong prior to our miscarriages, would they have all happened?

Then I realised my period was late

When my next period didn’t come on time, a friend suggested I take a pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe it when I had a positive result. Were we ready to go through all of this again? 

I called the EPU. They explained that, due to COVID-19, they weren’t offering early scans unless there was any bleeding. Thankfully, there hadn’t been, but I couldn’t believe I’d have to go through the agony of those first weeks without the support of the EPU midwives and some reassurance scans.

I spoke to my GP, who spoke to the unit on my behalf – and since my last loss had been a suspected ectopic pregnancy, they agreed to see me at 7 weeks.

I asked my GP to prescribe me progesterone 

I explained that I’d been denied it last time but told her about the PRISM trial carried out by Tommy’s, and she agreed to prescribe it. Without their findings, I’m sure she wouldn’t have been willing to do so.

We couldn’t believe it when we heard that first heartbeat

As the weeks rolled by, I marked them in milestones – 9 weeks, then 12, then 20. The fear never left us. We paid for private scans, private testing to check for abnormalities, and all the time I held my breath. The feeling that something might go wrong never really left me. 

Our rainbow baby

On 2 December 2021, I gave birth to a bonny healthy baby boy – our rainbow.

He’ll never know how hard we fought for him, or how desperately we longed for him, but when he is older, we will tell him of the babies who came before him, and who didn’t get to stay.

For anyone reading this who is still in the midst of the battle, don’t give up hope. Sometimes miracles really do happen.