health

"I had a miscarriage and the public health system failed me."

This article contains an account of a miscarriage that could be triggering for some readers.

I was almost 11-weeks pregnant with my second child. Things were ticking along nicely as far as I knew. I told my husband how well I was feeling. That the nausea had diminished. He responded that it was probably me moving into the second trimester. I nodded, while secretly hoping that it wasn’t something else.

I had my first ultrasound at six weeks and they had shown me a heartbeat. I had no reason to be paranoid, after all I had done this before and have a 15-month-old. The GP had not expressed any concern. Why should I be worried? Miscarriage was the last thing on my mind. As arrogant as this is, I knew there was a risk, but I never thought it would happen to me.

Then it did.

The timing was impeccable.

My mother-in-law was over and we wouldn’t see her for another three weeks, so I urged my husband to tell her (albeit a little prematurely).

Prior to her coming over, I frantically looked up different ways to drop the news.

I rummaged around upstairs and grabbed what I could find. Finally, I presented her with a gift bag that had a nappy with the words written ‘Baby number #2 due in December 2019’.

She was overjoyed. Congratulated us. No one could stop smiling.

That was, until I went to the bathroom and saw that something was very wrong. My heart sank. My stomach dropped. I knew it was over.

Almost as instantly as I had broken the news, I knew that I had lost (or was definitely losing) the baby.

We made our way to the Emergency Department as that was what I was always told to do by doctors if any bleeding was present. On the way to the hospital I told my husband to start preparing for the worst. I didn’t have any bleeding with our first child.

He wanted to be optimistic, but I was already pessimistic.

We waited in the emergency department for a total of four hours. They didn’t appear to be particularly busy. During that time they took my blood pressure and drew blood. They informed me that they didn’t have an ultrasound machine.

I asked them what was the purpose of me being here?

They just reassured me that I had come to the right place. The whole time I felt like I was wasting my time (and everyone else’s) after all, I was “only” having a miscarriage. This wasn’t an emergency. Women miscarry everyday. One in four. What could they possibly tell me without an ultrasound machine anyway?

Finally after the four hours, a doctor came and presented me with results from my blood. She apologised for the delay. She stated that my HCG levels were about the range that they would expect to see at seven weeks. Not 11 weeks. I put two and two together. I was having a miscarriage.

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“It’s hard to say for certain whether you are miscarrying,” was the best response the doctor had for me.

Really? I’m bleeding and my HCG levels are only at seven weeks. What do you think? The baby is thriving in there?

This is one of the examples of the timid approach doctors have in telling you you’re having a miscarriage. I understand some women want the news broken to them gently, but anyone with any common sense could see that I was miscarrying. It felt like I had to convince everyone else that it was true. That was the first hurdle. Confirming what I already knew. It’s difficult to believe that our public health system doesn’t even have one ultrasound machine in our emergency department.

I was told to go to the Early Pregnancy Assessment clinic (EPA), so I went the next day. I sat in a waiting room filled with pregnant women. I don’t know who invented these EPA clinics, but in all honesty, who was the genius that decided that viable pregnancies and non-viable pregnancies should be congregated in the same waiting room? That’s exactly what I wanted to see at that particular moment. Pregnant women. In the height of my miscarriage.

Then when I had my name called I was walked into… (the doctors- yay!) or so I thought… but no… it was another waiting room.

When I saw the doctor finally, she asked me what I believed was happening. I said that I had bleeding and that it was most likely a miscarriage.

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She then sent me into (yes, another) waiting room. Where I sat waiting for my ultrasound. The ultrasound was done with no warning. I could see instantly on the screen, my dead baby. I was then sent back into the original doctor, who again, asked me what I believed had happened. I said (for the third time) that I was having a miscarriage and that I wanted it resolved.

She presented me with three options, the surgery (or D and C), misoprostal (medication) or wait it out and let it happen naturally. I opted for the surgery, but she then informed me that I could go on the list but as I’m a non-urgent patient I could be bumped off at anytime.

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I asked when the next guaranteed surgery could be done? She said the same thing, that nothing could be guaranteed… but she could try and get me on the list for next Friday (which was next week).

So in theory, I was expected to walk around with a dead baby (that I had seen on the ultrasound minutes before) for another week before any kind of resolution. That’s all I wanted at that stage. The whole thing to be resolved. I then reluctantly opted for the medication.

I was told I had to take the pills then and there. I needed to get Panadeine Forte and that I would have “some bleeding and cramping”.

“Some bleeding and cramping” was a complete understatement as to what the next few hours held for me. Exactly four hours after taking the pills I was doubled over in agony. The pain was so intense that I ended up knocking back four of the Panadeine Forte pills to no avail.

My stomach, my back and uterus were all cramping at the same time. There was no break. No matter what I did I couldn’t get any relief. I tried to visualise something other than the pain. I tried to get warm. I struggled for two hours in nine-out-of-10 pain. My mother called me and I couldn’t speak due to the pain. When the pain became more spaced out, the bleeding hit. I started to haemorrhage. The regular pads couldn’t hold the blood. I became convinced that I was dying. That I was done at 32. That I was going to bleed to death on my bathroom floor.

I called the ambulance. Went back to the hospital that I started at. They had no pads. They had no pillows. There was one bathroom and 50 patients. I remained in blood-soaked clothes for eight hours before finally being discharged.

I eventually took the miscarriage proceedings out of the public system and booked in a D and C with an obstetrician. Since then it has been resolved. But I will never go through the public system again. D and Cs are a necessity for women’s health they should be readily available.

Ultrasounds need to be available, pads need to be available, waiting rooms for miscarriages should not be in the same room as viable pregnancies. If you want a sign that we live in a man’s world and we don’t invest enough in our hospitals. There it is.

You can download Mamamia’s e-book Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Join the community of women, men and families who have lost a child in our private Facebook group.

If this article has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.

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