Tommy's guest blog, 16/03/2017, by Tara Charrin
I've had 4 unexplained first trimester miscarriages, and 2 second trimester miscarriages. One of the second trimester miscarriages was due to incompetent cervix, and this caused our son, Robert, to be born at 21 weeks 3 days.
Due to his gestational age, nothing could be done to save him.
When I got pregnant again, I had scans every fortnight to keep an eye on my cervix. At 19 weeks 3 days, 4 days before my scan was due, I felt something was wrong and so my consultant had the scan pushed forward. It was found that I only had 5mm of closed cervix left (typically someone at that stage of pregnancy could expect between 3cm and 5cm of closed cervix). The top of my cervix was already dilating and if it wasn't for surgery I had that same day to put a stitch in, I would have had another 2nd trimester miscarriage.
We were told that we would be very lucky to get to 24 weeks, and I was advised not to work for the remainder of my pregnancy.
At 25 weeks I had steroid shots to help mature our little boy’s lungs and our goal was to reach 28 weeks. Somehow we actually made it to 39 weeks and Joseph was born on 15th March 2014. 1 year and 14 days after his big brother.
One of the biggest issues we found was that because the other miscarriages were unexplained, we were left in a situation where we could either hope for the best, or try treatments that hadn't been proven effective, and carried significant risks. We opted to try the treatments (progesterone supplementation and anti-coagulant shots), but we don't know how effective they were, or if they were necessary.
Current RCOG guidelines also meant that Joseph was put at risk because the stitch isn't put in place for incompetent cervix until after the cervix has already started to shorten and dilate. This can happen very quickly in some women, including myself, and is often not caught in time.
We didn't want to take that risk again and so decided that we wouldn't be having any more children.
However, we then found out about Professor Shennan and the pre-term birth surveillance clinic at St Thomas' Hospital, London. This centre is funded by Tommy's and has drastically reduced the premature birth rate in that area, and they also take referrals from all over the country.
I self-referred to the clinic for a pre-conception consultation.
We began trying for another baby in the summer of 2015 and unfortunately had another miscarriage. But in August 2015 we found out that we were pregnant again. We contacted Professor Shennan straight away and had an appointment with him when I was 8 weeks pregnant. I was already taking Clexane and progesterone to maintain the pregnancy.
Professor Shennan and I agreed that the best course of action would be a preventative cerclage and he booked me in for surgery at 13 weeks pregnant. Throughout it all he was incredibly supportive and understanding.
I had the cerclage placed at 13 weeks and this was followed up by fortnightly scans at my local hospital to make sure things were progressing as they should be. Everything went smoothly and on the 19th April 2016 we welcomed baby Felix into the world at 38 weeks.
My pregnancy with Felix was entirely different from my pregnancy with Joey because this time I was properly supported and felt that my doctor cared whether my baby lived or died.
I was able to enjoy my pregnancy knowing that I had been given the best treatment possible and there was never any sign of pre-term labour. I cannot overstate how important that support was to us as a family and how grateful we are to Professor Shennan and all of the Tommy's team for making that possible for us.
We are now enjoying life as a family of four. But we also know that should another baby come along the help and support is available thanks to Tommy's to help us have another successful pregnancy.