Early pregnancy loss can make you more nervous about trying again for a baby; helpful strategies for working with this fear is one of the subjects to be discussed by guests at the Fertility Support Group meeting on the 22nd October.
Counsellor Jackie Stewart coordinates the Fertility Support Group; she advises: “It is perfectly natural to feel anxious and sad sometimes, whilst trying again for a baby. Give yourself time to heal and permission to grieve for the sense of loss you are feeling.”
Many people carry these feelings with them and specialist counselling services such as Petals and TimeNorfolk give free support to those that have had early pregnancy loss and miscarriage, which can help you to move on.
She says: “By giving yourself the best support and allowing some of these feelings to be present, it is possible to work safely with these thoughts and feelings and come through to a place of peace.”
Fertility after loss – Bourn Hall fertility support group meeting
Karen Burgess, Founder and CEO of Petals, the Baby Loss Counselling Charity, will be talking about coping strategies in the meeting. She is joined by Abi Ingrey, who had eight miscarriages over 5 years – her longest pregnancy lasting just ten weeks – before eventually being referred to Bourn Hall Clinic, where she was successful.
Abi remembers how she felt the first time she became pregnant:
“When I found out I was pregnant it felt as though everything had fallen in to place,” recalls Abi. “My husband Scott and I both really wanted children and as far as we were concerned that was that. We would be having a baby in a few months time.”
Sadly just a few weeks later Abi miscarried and it was a real shock for the couple, says Abi: “Most people around us were either pregnant or having children so we hadn’t really expected something to go wrong. We were devastated.” It is very rare for a woman to experience more than three miscarriages – only 1 in 100 women do – but Abi went on to lose seven more pregnancies.
Abi strongly believes recurrent miscarriage is not something which should be swept under the carpet, and that it should be talked about more openly and shares her own experiences and feelings:
“The grief is something you carry with you, and kind of learn to live with, every day. Some days are easier than others and the slightest thing can trigger those memories but I have learned to try and be kind to myself and allow the emotions to come and go, as our journey, as much as our babies, shaped us and will be with us forever.
“Grief is invisible so from the outside people are unaware of how you feel on a daily basis. I believe it is important to listen to how you feel and then seek whatever therapy, help or alternative therapies you find most beneficial.
“I feel that unless you have personally been in the situation yourself it is not possible to fully understand the impact of this kind of loss. Being close to anyone and supporting them the best way you can does give you an insight into what it is like but only the parents truly know and feel how losing a pregnancy can change the way you view the world and everything around you.
“For me personally, at the time we were losing our pregnancies a lot of our friends were expecting and holding baby showers. Even to this day I am unable to go to baby showers as it triggers all the memories for me. I have made peace with our journey and am very grateful to have Elliott and Willow in our lives.
“I can’t say that I understand why any of it happened but, in a way, it helps me to openly share our story. In doing so I hope that it gives courage and support to anyone out there who is in a similar situation and feels as lost and alone as I remember feeling. When I took back some of my power and started working with the alternative therapies this gave me peace of mind and something to focus on other than the recurrent miscarriages.”
Reasons for recurrent miscarriage
It is thought that most miscarriages are caused by abnormal chromosomes in the baby and that about one in six pregnancies (where the woman knows she is pregnant) will end in miscarriage.
Although the majority of miscarriages cannot be prevented, to try to reduce the risk the NHS Choices website does list a number of steps which women can take: avoid smoking, drinking alcohol or using drugs whilst pregnant; maintaining a healthy weight prior to pregnancy and eating healthily.
Always a fear after pregnancy loss
“Every time I got pregnant we got excited, but there was always this fear at the back of our minds,” says Abi.
“Everyone else we knew had started their families so it was quite hard to sometimes mix with them. They would make veiled comments about why we weren’t having children. Even when we did start to tell people about what was going on, a few asked why we didn’t look in to fostering and adopting. When you have been in a situation where you have actually lost a pregnancy that is quite a hard thing to hear someone say to you.
Feelings after miscarriage
Like Abi, many people experience feelings of grief, guilt, emptiness, fear and loneliness after pregnancy loss. The Tommy’s website is a good resource; it observes that there are lots of different emotions and that you are entitled to these, saying: “It doesn’t matter how far along you were, nothing should stop you from grieving for the baby you made.”
- Grief – people may say ‘it wasn’t really a baby yet’ – but although you may not have been able to meet or hold your baby, that doesn’t mean your grief is any less real
- Shock – sometimes couples only know of their loss when they come for a scan and they feel totally unprepared for the news
- Failure and guilt – the feeling that a baby in your care could stop growing is very difficult to understand. You may feel guilt over things that you may have done or eaten, but it is important to know that the most common cause of early loss is chromosome abnormalities and these occur by chance.
- Emptiness – many women feel different when they are pregnant and this is taken away
- Loss of control – not knowing why the loss has happened can make you question everything – getting good advice and counselling can help you with this
- Fear – you may feel overcome with anxiety if you desperately want to try for another baby – counselling can get you into a better place and help you cope with the next step
- Jealousy – you may feel yourself feeling envious or resentful, especially if someone else’s timing coincides with important dates for you – don’t be hard on yourself, many will feel the same way
IVF not an easy choice
Abi admits that she and Scott says delayed seeking help with infertility: “I wouldn’t say exactly that we didn’t know how to deal with the situation but we just found it extremely hard. Everyone else had their children around them and each year went by and we weren’t getting any closer to having a family,” she says.
“It took us a long time to get our heads round what was happening. We had to accept to ourselves that something was wrong, rather than keep trying on our own and hoping it would all work out.”
The couple choose Bourn Hall Clinic for their IVF treatment. Poor sperm quality, where the DNA is fragmented, is thought to be a cause of miscarriage, so the couple had ICSI (intracyto-plasmic sperm injection), which may help to overcome this. The process involves selecting the best quality sperm and directly injecting one into the egg to fertilise it. The resulting embryos were incubated for a few days and the highest grade embryo was then transferred to Abi’s womb.
Help on the IVF journey
Abi employed the services of two alternative health therapists to help her on her IVF journey, complementing the medical intervention with reiki reflexology and visualisation, energy balancing and healing techniques.
When the couple found out Abi was pregnant after the ICSI treatment, Abi stayed off work for a few weeks to rest and then went back to work on reduced hours to ensure her body and mind were not overstressed.
Getting past being ten weeks pregnant was a big hurdle. Abi had a number of scans throughout her pregnancy. Happily she went to full-term and son Elliott was born in March 2015. When he was 11 months old Abi became pregnant again naturally.
She welcomed the news with ‘cautious optimism’, because of her history of miscarriage. Happily her pregnancy progressed well and she now has a little girl too.
Although not right for everyone, Abi firmly believes that visualisation and reiki helped to remove her fears. “They gave me confidence and trust in my body’s ability to maintain a healthy and successful pregnancy, despite our history,” she says.
Coping with emotions
Abi is sharing her experiences to help others: “It was only when we started to talk about what we were going through, that other people would tell us they had suffered miscarriages in the past,” she says.
“Unfortunately it is one of those things which doesn’t get talked about but it really does need to get talked about more. As with anything else, if you are going through something which is different to other people you can feel isolated.”
Strategies for coping will be discussed in the meeting; these may include:
- Allow yourself to feel sad, this is part of the grieving process
- When you feel ready and you decide it could be helpful, talk to someone you trust about your feelings, a close family member, a friend, colleague or a specialist counsellor. Sometimes talking to an objective outsider can help considerably
- You and your partner may be coping differently, it can help to allow for this. There is no right way to grieve and both partners’ feelings count equally. You may need different things to help you cope during this difficult time
- Take time to heal both physically and emotionally and don’t hesitate to talk to your GP if needed
- Commemorate your loss, a lot of people like to find a special way to remember their baby or to do something that makes them feel like they’ve said a proper goodbye
- Express yourself – writing a diary, talking to your partner, gaining support from a counsellor (just a few sessions can make a difference)
- Look after your health