Last year, thousands of women told us about their experiences of mental health problems during and after pregnancy – including those who lost their babies.
As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week we're sharing stories people have shared about the impact of miscarriage and still birth on their mental health, and the call from women for more opportunities to talk about their mental health.
Leanne has had three miscarriages in the last 11 years. The trauma affected her physically, but it’s the emotional and mental scars that have remained with her. She believes there needs to be more follow-up care for women who have been through baby loss.
“I suffered my first miscarriage 11 years ago and that sense of loss, that trauma, has never gone away.
"They told me it was a silent miscarriage, no symptoms, no sign."
"I remember them giving me a leaflet with some numbers to call if I needed support, but it was too much to take on board at the time. There was no follow-up from the hospital.
"I now know that I had depression but didn’t recognise the signs at the time, I just knew I felt very sad, empty and desperately alone.
"Two years later I was pregnant again, my relationship wasn’t great, and this baby wasn’t planned. At 10 weeks I started to bleed lightly. I went to hospital and they couldn’t find a heartbeat and, two days later, I started to bleed very heavily. In agony, I called the early pregnancy unit who said to call an ambulance. The paramedics took my blood pressure and found it was dangerously low so rushed me to hospital. It was terrifying, I’ve never felt pain like it."
"I felt so empty and couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to see anyone, didn’t want to get out of bed at all. After a few weeks I went to the GP who prescribed anti-depressants. I didn’t feel like I was being listened to and, although he gave me some numbers for counsellors, I didn’t feel in the frame of mind to make the call. I think there’s such stigma around miscarriage, the sense that you’re supposed to just get on with things, that it’s not something to sit and talk about.
"And yet I had all these emotions that didn’t feel normal. I felt jealous about anyone getting pregnant when I wanted a baby so much. I now know that many women go through those emotions but at the time you feel so guilty when you can’t be happy for friends or family if they’re having a baby. I had around six counselling sessions through work, but I wasn’t ready for it, I wasn’t ready to really address how I was feeling.
"I met my fiancé in 2011, about six months after that second miscarriage. In 2014 we had IVF and it worked first time. We were overwhelmed. I had an early scan at seven weeks as it was an IVF pregnancy and I was terrified. I’ve never been so scared in my life. They confirmed a strong heartbeat, so I felt a little more relieved. Then, at the 12 week scan, they told us there was no longer a heartbeat. Our baby had died just a few days after that first scan. It was heart-wrenching.
"This time there seemed to be more support in general. I was told that, after a third consecutive loss, there would be more research, more tests and more support if I got pregnant again. I also spoke with a bereavement midwife, which was massively helpful.
"I was also a bit more proactive, I researched where I could get help and took part in research programmes with Tommy’s clinics in Coventry and London. We had a further round of IVF in 2016 which, unfortunately, was unsuccessful and we have continued trying for a baby naturally, but with no results. We’ve exhausted all research trials for now. We still have no answers. We’re looking at potentially trying IVF abroad but there’s always that fear that, if I get pregnant, I will miscarry again.
"I don’t think the emotional side of baby loss is really understood. Nobody explained to me that it was normal to feel anger and jealousy and if I’d known that it was normal then I wouldn’t have felt so guilty. You feel like you’re going mad, you feel so very alone.
"If someone had arranged counselling, arranged group sessions, I would have gone along and taken part, but I just couldn’t make those calls myself at that point.
"We really do need more follow-up after baby loss. You break your leg, you get a physio appointment sent out to you. I don’t understand why that same level of support isn’t offered when it comes to mental health following miscarriage.”
What did people say about their experiences?
Although only a small proportion of the women we heard from had suffered baby loss, there are some common themes to the experiences they shared.
They felt that they were left alone to deal with the aftermath of what happened – just given a leaflet and expected to get on with it.
That services didn’t always follow up with them and see if they needed mental health support.
That there was a lack of information about how people should expect to feel when they lose a baby.
That there is a big gap between how well you’re treated physically, and how much consideration is given to your mental health.
What changes would people like to see?
- Proactive support from professionals – don’t expect people to be able to identify the support they need for themselves.
- More than a leaflet – people need space to talk about how they’re feeling.
- Support for partners.
- Better communication so staff know if people have experienced multiple miscarriages
Thanks to Tommy's for sharing these women's experiences with us. Take a look at their campaign for Baby Loss Awareness Weeks - Tell Me Why and help raise awareness today.
*Please note that the names in these stories are not their real names and have been anonymised.