An Irish mother-of-one has opened up about her ordeal of suffering 18 miscarriages in the last ten years.
Georgina O’Shea (30) from Cork has one son Leon who was born in 2004. In 2008, she and her husband Ken began trying to conceive another baby.
That year, they were overjoyed to discover that 20-year-old Georgina was pregnant. But joy suddenly turned to heartbreak when she had her first miscarriage. It was to be the first of a long list of recurring miscarriages for the couple.
“No two miscarriages were the same. Every one of them were as painful as each other,” she told Independent.ie.
“Everyone asks ‘how do I cope?’ The small few people who know my story say ‘how are you still standing, still smiling?’”
“For ten years, this was my secret. It was a secret I was living with, there were five people who would have known the extent of what I was going through.”
“You just get used to living that secret life and putting on a brave face, but I do have a healthy son and I was trying to protect him and I didn’t want to see him suffering.”
While over 50,000 women give birth in Ireland every year, it is estimated that a further 14,000 miscarry spontaneously every year.
Doctors told Georgina that miscarriage was part of the pregnancy process. But after Georgina lost her third baby, doctors began to investigate why.
“It was devastating. We’d talked about having another child and when we found out we were pregnant we were over the moon. We were married that year and then we were pregnant so it seemed like a great year.”
“The doctors just told me that I was silly to try because I was so young, and normally people don’t start a family until their late 20s, early 30s. You’re going back 10 years, things have changed since then obviously.”
“The second miscarriage would have been a year after the first one, in 2009. Then I went to the doctor again and they told me not to worry, I was young, that everything was fine.”
“The third miscarriage happened about six months later and I got the same response.”
“My husband and I moved to Cork and I found out that I was pregnant in 2010. I was obviously with a new doctor, and I explained my story to her. It was then that the doctor listened and sent me for tests to Cork University Hospital.”
Georgina’s file was eventually sent to an international group of doctors in the US who were researching miscarriages. They identified two possible causes for her baby losses.
They suggested that her womb might be rejecting each pregnancy and that a scratch procedure to the endometrial lining could stimulate the uterus’ receptivity to the embryo and increase the success rate of live birth.
They also suggested that because Georgina’s blood type is rhesus negative, that perhaps her immune system might be attacking each pregnancy.
She was given steroid treatments, but still the miscarriages continued.
In one year, she had five. Last July, she lost another baby at nine weeks, a milestone which she hadn't reached before and believed her luck might have turned.
“Every woman that miscarries can relate to one another, regardless of whether it’s one… five… in my case 18-plus.”
“It hurts the same way. You’re losing one of your babies. You’re grieving for your child.”
She added: "It puts a massive strain on a relationship. For a woman, I was going through the phases of ‘is this ever going to work?’, ‘Is it my fault?’, ‘Should I have done this?’, ‘Should I have done that?’”
“There were times that I might blame my husband as well.”
Georgina says the doctors in Cork University Maternity Hospital have done "all they can".
"Myself and my husband, we’ve just hit a brick wall. I know there is someone or something out there. We’ve done the steroids which are proven to work somewhat."
Georgina and Ken watched RTE presenter Kathryn Thomas reveal last week on the Late Late Show her own heartbreak of suffering two miscarriages.
Georgina decided to speak about her own experience on Red FM's Neil Prendeville show this week.
“Kathryn Thomas, when she described herself, she actually described me. I try to keep positive.”
“It’s a bit of a shock that people know my hardship now. People were wishing me well. A doctor got in contact with me. It’s opening a new line for me.”
“There’s one thing that I want to stress. I think the men in the relationship, they don’t get enough credit for what they actually do. Every man that goes through the miscarriage, they’re isolated because they don’t have support. When people ask me how I coped, I say ask him, because I cried on his shoulder, but whose shoulder did he cry on?”
“He’s the one that has to stay strong and pick me up when I fall, and stay positive, and keep the family going.”
She added: "I have to learn to deal with this and get on with it. That’s my attitude. If I try hard enough, who knows, there might be a doctor out there who has a new theory, or there might be another woman in my situation who can offer some advice.”
“In my mind, I know it’s not the case but I don’t feel like I have the right to grieve, because there are women out there who give birth to stillborn babies.”
“For me, I don’t even get a picture or a scanned photo so I don’t feel like I have the right to grieve. I know that’s not the case. But I have to build myself up to a point where I won’t break. In my mind, I have to keep my mental health."
Georgina has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to help with the cost of medical treatments she intends to have to help her have a baby: https://www.gofundme.com/51fv9wo