Stephen and I decided to start trying for a family shortly after we got married. I became pregnant very quickly, much to my surprise. Our first child, Adam, was born after a straightforward pregnancy but a long and difficult labour that ended in a C-section.
Two years later, I had an early miscarriage. Soon after, we became pregnant with twins. This was a bit of a surprise! All was going well with the pregnancy and we found out that we were expecting two boys. We started to plan ahead and even had an extension built to our house. In fact, we were living in a building site for a lot of the pregnancy.
At 22 weeks pregnant, I noticed some slight spotting and went to the hospital. When they examined me, they found that I was at risk of my waters breaking and I could go into labour at any point. I was admitted to hospital, and after a couple of days my first twin was born at 22 weeks + 5 days. My second twin was born at 22+6. We were absolutely devastated. It had never occurred to us that this could happen.
When we had a follow up appointment with our consultant and the bereavement midwife, they told us that there was no clear reason why this could have happened. They said that it might have been because they were twins. It was difficult to hear that there was no reason.
“I went through in minute detail what I’d done in the weeks leading up to losing them – the day before I’d walked to meet a friend for lunch, then also met a friend for dinner. Had I done too much walking? Had I been too blasé about pregnancy and not taken proper care of myself? Had I not rested enough? Had I eaten the wrong foods? Should I have done more pelvic floor exercises?”
One of the worst things about not having an explanation for losing the twins was the fear that the same thing could happen again and there was no way to prevent it.
Searching for a reason
After a difficult year I became pregnant again but had two further early miscarriages. I had some tests carried out for possible causes of recurrent miscarriage. I was found to be a carrier for a blood clotting disorder, but the haematologist did not believe was a contributing factor to my miscarriages. However, it was agreed that in any subsequent pregnancies I should be prescribed blood thinners, just in case.
6 months later, I became pregnant for the last time. At 6 weeks, I started on the blood thinners. I also had regular cervix scans. I had a scan at 13 weeks, followed by another 2 weeks later, which found that my cervix was shortening – from 35mm to 25mm. My consultant put in a cervical stitch the following day, in the hope that this would help to keep this pregnancy in place.
History repeating itself
I dared to feel more positive, but after what had happened with the twins, I was still very cautious and tried to take things as easy as possible.
We had a scan at 21 weeks and found that we were having another boy. A cervix scan unfortunately showed that my cervix was trying to open, and the stitch was the only thing keeping him in. We were so upset, it looked like history was going to repeat itself, despite all our best efforts.
I was admitted to hospital and put on bedrest in a bed tilted backwards to take pressure off my cervix. My consultant told me that I would stay there until my baby was born. I was happy to try anything. I stayed on bedrest until 24 weeks gestation, when my waters started to leak. I was showing signs of infection that didn’t respond to the antibiotics I was given. I was transferred to a specialist hospital and induced. They told me that it was more dangerous for the baby to stay in an infected womb, than to be born early. Hugo arrived at 24+6 gestation and was tiny. He was whisked off to the neonatal unit and given lots of help to to become stronger.
7 long months
Hugo was very poorly and stayed in hospital for 7 months. He had heart and bowel surgery, multiple blood transfusions, sepsis and almost every complication that premature babies can have. We almost didn’t dare to celebrate his birth as everything was so touch and go for such a long time. The day we finally brought him home was the day we felt like celebrating! He is now 4 years old and, for the most part, happy and healthy. We feel very lucky.
When Hugo was 2 years old, I found some information about a new study on the Tommy’s website, run by Tommy's Preterm Birth Research Centre. This study showed that premature birth and late miscarriage can sometimes occur if a woman has had a previous emergency C-section when partially or fully dilated. Suddenly my experience started to make sense.
“It gave me an enormous sense of relief that there was a reason for this happening, it wasn’t something that I’d done wrong, or was my fault in any way.”
I think it’s vital that people find out why they’ve lost their baby and I support Tommy’s as they are finding these answers.
1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss – and most parents never find out why due to a shocking lack of research. It doesn't have to be this way – and Tommy’s research is finding the answers. But research into pregnancy loss is currently seriously underfunded compared to other medical conditions.
We believe that every parent deserves answers. Let us know if you agree.
Premature birth is the biggest killer of newborn babies in the UK and much of Tommy's research is devoted to predicting and preventing this. One discovery has made a huge difference to our ability to treat women in time.
In more than half of stillbirths parents are not given a reason for their babies' death. Doctors simply do not know why it happens. This animation looks at how Tommy's researchers are finding out the causes of stillbirth and how this leads to treatments and saved lives.
Too many miscarriages are unexplained. Our research is entirely dedicated to finding out why miscarriages happen and how to prevent it in the future.
Ali and Daisy from London were excited when they found out they were expecting their second child in 2017. After a complicated first trimester, Daisy went into labour at 23 weeks gestation. Baby Jannah was born weighing just over 1 pound and spent 105 days in hospital before finally going home. This is Ali’s story.
Sarah and Adam had their first son Brodie in 2015. They suffered four heart-breaking losses before being referred to the Tommy’s research centre at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. With the support of Professor Andy Shennan, Sarah gave birth to baby Ari.
Lisa and Ryan lost their son Dylan at 16 weeks. They self-referred to the Tommy’s clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital where they found the hope to try again. They have just completed their sixth IVF attempt which ended in a chemical pregnancy.
Emma experienced 5 losses before her rainbow baby, Theodora, was born in December 2018.