In June 2014, I found out I was expecting our first baby. I had all the normal pregnancy symptoms and everything was going well until around week 7, when I had a small amount of bloody discharge.
My GP said this could happen, and given it was not heavy bleeding and there wasn't any pain, they didn't take any further action. However, I kept having this discharge weekly, and at 11.5 weeks I also experienced some pain so took myself off to A&E.
Following a referral to the early pregnancy assessment unit (EPAU) that evening, they scanned me and gave me the devastating news that there was no heartbeat.
Given the time of day, I had to go back the following day for a second scan to confirm this, and to go through what I wanted to do.
This all took place at the start of August 2014. After recovering from the miscarriage, we decided to try again and by October, I had another positive pregnancy test.
This time round we tried to stay positive and put the first loss down to bad luck. Unfortunately however, this pregnancy went the same way.
As soon as the same issue began to occur again, my GP referred me straight to EPAU. But this pregnancy was also failing and at 8 weeks, it was confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat.
To have this happen again was beyond words. The only positive thing was that my husband was a complete rock for me. However, the disappointment and shame started to kick in; all you can think is ‘why?’ and ‘what is wrong with my body?’.
After recovering, we decided to try again and in January I was pregnant. At that point all my insecurities built up. Given my two previous losses, I was referred to the EPAU to be monitored.
On the first scan at 7 weeks there was a heartbeat, which was amazing, but we also noticed that it was quite slow.
The doctor said not to worry - but within two weeks the same issue happened again, and we were told there was no heartbeat.
I can't tell you how awful it feels to suffer the loss of a baby; but to go through this three times was unthinkable. On top of everything, I just felt like I was a complete failure and had let my family down.
It was so hard to talk to anyone about it, even my closest friends. They meant well, but made comments like “it wasn't meant to be” or “did you expect it?”. I can't express enough that each time it gets harder and you end up feeling even lonelier. Even writing this I'm struggling not to cry about what we went through.
After the third loss, I was referred for tests on the NHS. The Sister on EPAU also let me know about testing for issues with the immune system relating to natural killer cells - as the NHS did not offer this.
I knew, given the same thing kept happening, there was an issue; it was like my body kept rejecting the pregnancies. On sitting me down, the NHS consultant asked me what I was expecting from the referral. This felt like a strange question, but I explained it was to help find a reason for my three miscarriages.
I was then told that they had to manage my expectations and that 9 out of 10 times, no reason is found - it’s purely bad luck.
Imagine how that feels - being told they probably wouldn’t find any reason for it all?
It just made me feel even more dejected and a failure, as I knew there was something happening to cause this.
While they conducted blood tests, I also looked into the private testing for my immune system. This is how I found Dr Shehata, who is a specialist in this area. Without any doubt, I knew I had to arrange an appointment with him.
On seeing him, Dr Shehata said he would do all he could to help us, and after going through my history, he gave us an in-depth explanation of the tests he wanted to carry out. The next day my husband and I travelled to the private clinic in London for the tests, and arranged to see Dr Shehata two weeks later to get the results.
On our follow-up visit, we were informed that having done a specific test where my blood was put in to the environment of being pregnant, they had found a certain cell in my immune system which goes into overdrive and thinks the pregnancy is a foreign body. This is what seems to have caused the rejection each time.
Dr Shehata explained what the treatment was for this, and said our odds of a healthy pregnancy would be dramatically increased. So we decided to stick with going down this route, as the NHS tests had not given us any results.
We were told to go home, and as soon as I had a positive pregnancy test I had to take a course of steroids for the first trimester which would suppress my immune system. We knew I had no difficulty in getting pregnant, and by the next month I had a positive test.
Following Dr Shehata's medication plan - and with fortnightly appointments to check the progression of the pregnancy – I’m pleased to say everything went smoothly.
I’m now 31 weeks pregnant, and we cannot wait to meet our little miracle in weeks to come.
The main point to my story is that had we not sought private, specialist help, we would never have known my immune system had this problem - which was easily treated. While the NHS is amazing in other respects, having to go through this horrendous loss three times is something I would never wish on anyone else.
I hope that in the future the NHS will look into offering the testing and treatment that is available privately, to help stop women going through losses that could potentially be prevented.
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