Monday 5 December 2016

Miscarriage: I'm so glad I got to say goodbye to my twins . . .

Women who suffer miscarriages need their loss to be recognised

Carissa Casey

Published 31/05/2011 | 05:00

Model and actress Kelly Brook was spotted last weekend on her first night out since suffering a miscarriage five months into her pregnancy.

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For the last month, 31-year-old Brook, who was expecting a daughter with ex-Scottish rugby international Thom Evans, has stayed out of the glare of publicity. According to friends, she was devastated by the loss of her baby.

She is not the only celebrity who has struggled recently to come to terms with the tragedy of late-term miscarriage. In February, Britain's Got Talent judge Amanda Holden was just two months away from giving birth when she was rushed to hospital complaining that she hadn't felt the baby kick for more than 24 hours. Doctors were baffled because her baby son was, they said, "physically perfect".

It was Holden's second miscarriage in a year.

"It was without doubt the blackest period of my life," she said, after the first miscarriage in 2010. "You never think that it might happen to you. I was an absolute mess."

After the second miscarriage, Holden was sedated and spent two days in hospital recovering from the shock.

But now she's looking forward to getting pregnant again.

"I am an optimist. I think as bad as life sometimes gets, there is much joy and so much good stuff, that there is a balance," she said this week.

"Although what happened to me is obviously horrifying, we can go on to have more children."

Last November, singer Lily Allen (25) also lost a baby, in her case six months into pregnancy. In 2008, she had a miscarriage when she was four months pregnant.

It is purely coincidence that all of these high-profile women have suffered late-term miscarriages, but the tragedy of their experience has highlighted the pain of losing a child so far into a pregnancy.

Expectant mothers often delay telling people about their pregnancy until after the first three months. There is an assumption that after the first trimester, the risk of a miscarriage has passed.

While there has been an increase in the rise of reported miscarriages, this is partly attributed to the fact that women know far earlier that they are pregnant.

In times past, a woman had to be several weeks pregnant before a test would show positive and even then the test was carried out by a doctor. These days supermarkets sell pregnancy tests that will show whether a woman is pregnant or not, often within a few days of conception.

So where an early miscarriage, years ago, was often mistaken for a particularly heavy period, these days the expectant mother is aware of what's happening.

Women are also starting families at a later stage. The risk of miscarriage rises according to a woman's age. But as in the case of 25-year-old Allen it can happen at any age. In Ireland, about 14,000 pregnancies a year -- or one in five -- now end in miscarriage.

The end of a pregnancy can be devastating at any point, says Yvonne Shiels of the Miscarriage Association of Ireland (www.miscarriage.ie), an organisation that provides support to women and men who have suffered the pain of miscarriage.

Shiels suffered three miscarriages. "I felt so angry. I kept asking myself 'what have I done wrong?'" she remembers.

It's a common reaction but, as Shiels points out, there very often isn't a clear reason as to why some pregnancies end in miscarriage.

As in Holden's case, the baby can be physically perfect. "It's just nature and that can very hard to deal with," she says.

When a pregnancy ends before the 23-week mark, it's termed a miscarriage. No official records are kept of the baby.

After the 23-week mark the end of a pregnancy is referred to as a still birth. Chaplains at maternity hospitals will perform a service and the babies can be taken away for burial.

"It can be very hard for women when there isn't a tangible record of their baby. This can be the case at whatever point the miscarriage occurs," says Shiels. "Often they've built up a rapport with the baby. They might play it music or talk to it. It's an enormous loss."

The Miscarriage Association of Ireland has a Book of Remembrance where women can make a record of their baby's passing. It has also put memorial stones at Redford Cemetery in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

While these acknowledgements provide some comfort to a grieving mother, nothing can take away the pain of the loss, says Shiels. "It's not just the woman who feels grief-stricken, fathers too can be devastated. I've taken calls from grandfathers who are suffering."

Attitudes towards miscarriage, particularly when it happens late in the pregnancy, have changed dramatically. Maternity hospitals now allow and often encourage the mother to spend time with her dead baby.

"It's a very personal decision," says Shiels. "There's no right or wrong about seeing the baby. It's what feels right for the woman concerned."

The majority of women who suffer a miscarriage, even late in the term, go on to have children in the future. But Shiels warns against saying this to women who have just lost a baby. "What a woman needs when she loses a baby to miscarriage is for that loss to be acknowledged and recognised," she says.

The Miscarriage Association of Ireland (www.miscarriage.ie) provides support for both men and women. Online support for people who have experienced miscarriage is also available at the parenting website Rollercoaster (www.rollercoaster.ie)

Coping with the grief of miscarriage . . .

Model and actress Kelly Brook was spotted last weekend on her first night out since suffering a miscarriage five months into her pregnancy. For the last month, 31-year-old Brook, who was expecting a daughter with ex-Scottish rugby international Thom Evans, has stayed out of the glare of publicity. According to friends, she was devastated by the loss of her baby.

She is not the only celebrity who has struggled recently to come to terms with the tragedy of late-term miscarriage. In February, Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden was just two months away from giving birth when she was rushed to hospital complaining that she hadn’t felt the baby kick for more than 24 hours. Doctors were baffled because her baby son was, they said, “physically perfect”.

It was Holden’s second miscarriage in a year.

“It was without doubt the blackest period of my life,” she said, after the first miscarriage in 2010. “You never think that it might happen to you. I was an absolute mess.”

After the second miscarriage, Holden was sedated and spent two days in hospital recovering from the shock. But now she’s looking forward to getting pregnant again. “I am an optimist. I think as bad as life sometimes gets, there is much joy and so much good stuff, that there is a balance,” she said this week.

“Although what happened to me is obviously horrifying, we can go on to have more children.” Last November, singer Lily Allen (25) also lost a baby, in her case six months into pregnancy. In 2008, she had a miscarriage when she was four months pregnant.

It is purely coincidence that all of these high-profile women have suffered late-term miscarriages, but the tragedy of their experience has highlighted the pain of losing a child so far into a pregnancy. Expectant mothers often delay telling people about their pregnancy until after the first three months.

There is an assumption that after the first trimester, the risk of a miscarriage has passed.

Irish Independent

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