Could my diet be causing my miscarriages?

Rainbow baby Nate, who swims at Cedar School near Southampton with teacher Becky, is fundraising for Tommy’s this Splashathon. Mum Charlotte spoke regularly to the Tommy’s midwives as she suffered the pain of 5 miscarriages. Here’s her story…

Tommy's guest blog, 19/06/2019, by Charlotte

Marc and I have been together for 21 years, but only married for 11.  We waited until we knew the time was right – we were settled in our careers, we had a house – before trying for a baby and we fell pregnant straight away. We were so lucky. I just thought ‘oh, that was easy!?’, we expected a least few months of trying so we were absolutely delighted. Everything was fine until 9 weeks and then I noticed some brown spotting. We went for a scan and we were told the words no parent wants to hear, that we had lost our baby. We were devastated.

We tried again a couple of months later and were so pleased when we got the positive test result, but then the same thing happened. This time we lost our baby at 6 weeks.

A few months later we tried again, falling pregnant very quickly, but 3 days before Christmas I started to bleed and had to go hospital. Once more we had lost our baby. I could not believe it was happening to us.

After losing our third baby the consultant ran all the tests they could think of, the results came back negative, there was nothing wrong. I was reassured there was nothing I could have done – it wasn’t that extra coffee I’d had or something medically wrong that they could simply ‘fix’ with a magic pill. But they couldn’t give us the answers we needed.

I decided to do my own investigations. I wanted to know why this was happening to us. A friend’s mum just happened to mention she was on a gluten free diet and I decided to give it a try too. I felt so much better that I asked my GP for a test. The results revealed that yes, I did have a mild intolerance to gluten.

Whilst this was going on I was still getting a lot of pain and a scan showed that they suspected I not only had endometriosis but also adenomyosis – which does cause miscarriages but there is no cure for it apart from a hysterectomy, which obviously wasn’t an option!

It was so frustrating. Every time a little glimmer of hope, of a solution, a reason, but then those hopes dashed.

It was on one of these hospital visits that I met a student who asked me a range of questions about my miscarriages and my diet, one of which was about gluten. I started to put two and two together and wondered if there was anything in it. If my gluten intolerance was impacting my pregnancies.

Marc and I decided to have a break from trying. After 3 miscarriages in a year I needed a rest from the cycle of trying, falling and then losing my babies. The following Summer we felt ready to try again and were both delighted and scared to see those two lines on the test strip, only to again lose our baby at 6 weeks. We were beginning to lose all hope.

Desperate to try anything, I followed a gluten free, vegan diet cutting out anything that could be mildly inflammatory. All my symptoms of endometriosis disappeared - and this was confirmed with the results of a laparoscopy. “Squeaky clean” was how the consultant described me.

I had no idea if I had somehow ‘cured’ my endometriosis (if I even had it in the first place) by following this strict diet - if that was even possible?

We allowed time for me to heal after the laparoscopy and to begin trying again. We went on a trip to New York – determined to try and make the most of life despite all that was going on. On holiday I abandoned my strict diet, I stuffed myself with bagels and pizza, but it was whilst away that I discovered I was pregnant. We tried not to get our hopes up, prepared ourselves for disappointment. I was tracking my body temperature and the day before we left it dropped. Was this a sign of another miscarriage? Sadly, it was.

I then became really determined, I was desperate to have a baby. I decided to continue trying, to cut out all gluten and to rigidly stick to the diet. And that was the month we fell pregnant with Nate. I guess we’ll never really know if cutting out gluten led to him being here.

Throughout my journey I found the Tommy’s midwives to be a real source of support, I regularly called for advice when I hit a low and they listened and took me seriously. I was treated as an individual, they helped me look at each aspect of my pregnancies to find answers. They really gave me hope that there would be something else that I could try.

After my fourth miscarriage, I spoke with my doctor who referred me to the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research. I completed lots of questionnaires but luckily for me by the time my appointment came through I was already pregnant with Nate. I was too scared to cancel the appointment so I waited until the last minute, by which time I was 16 weeks pregnant. I was worried they may be a bit cross that I hadn’t cancelled it earlier but they were so understanding and overjoyed that I didn’t need their help.

Throughout all my scans and check-ups with Nate I was amazed I felt so calm - even with some bleeding. I thought I would be a nervous wreck but it was as though deep down I knew everything was alright this time. Every scan showed a normal, wriggly baby growing - we just couldn’t believe it. It was surreal. Every pain, feeling of nausea or kick in the ribs we embraced as evidence that this baby was happy and healthy. I felt so lucky to be pregnant I didn’t care.

I continued the gluten free diet right the way through my pregnancy. I had thought I would stop at 12 weeks but when I reached that milestone I remember thinking ‘but what if I do have something and I lose this baby, I would never forgive myself’. The risk was too great for me to take.

As soon as Nate was born the midwife asked if there was anything I would like to eat, she offered me some toast. I was so excited – toast! I had the best slice of toast in my life with my beautiful new born baby by my side.

I remember feeling that I knew it would happen one day - it was just a matter of when. We never gave up hope and I’m so glad we didn’t as we now have our amazing boy. At first I didn’t want to open up and tell people but I have found talking about it has really helped me and actually helped others too. I have supported friends who have sadly been through the same and I hope this helps other families as well.

We can’t believe Nate is nearly one now. He is growing into such a loving, fun and cheeky little boy, who’s into everything! We love him so much and are so pleased to finally be parents. We’re planning his first birthday party - a sensory party with a rainbow theme. A rainbow party for our rainbow baby.

Start your Splashathon fundraising here.