The reality of a missed miscarriage

Around 3% of pregnancies sadly end in missed or 'silent' miscarriages - here, one women shares her experience and what she learned from it

Missed miscarriage
(Image credit: Getty)

Before my miscarriage, I knew what most females would know about them. They’re likely to happen in the first 12 weeks and it’s highly likely it won’t be anything the mother has done to cause the miscarriage. It’s just ‘one of those things’. But I didn’t know anything about ‘missed miscarriages’ (or ‘silent miscarriages’ as they’re also known) until just a few weeks before I discovered I'd had one.

I actually learned what a missed miscarriage was when researching the early stages of pregnancy. There’s plenty of information about what you might be feeling, which includes pain or discomfort (although it's usually nothing to be worried about). Looking into more detail, I stumbled across the words 'missed miscarriage' and read up on it. Knowing it probably wouldn’t make me feel any better - I was already anxious enough about my pregnancy - I decided not to read too much more about it. It was only after discovering at my 12-week scan that I'd experienced a missed miscarriage, that I realised there wasn’t much information out there about coping with one. Or really any women’s stories from a similar perspective to my own. 

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They're not particularly common.

I now know that although miscarriages are common, missed miscarriages aren’t. Somewhere between 1-5% of pregnancies result in a missed miscarriage. It occurs when the baby has died or not developed but has not been physically miscarried. Unlike ‘normal’ miscarriages which often show symptoms of pain or bleeding, there aren't usually any signs with a missed miscarriage. And since pregnancy hormones can remain present after the baby has died, many women still continue to feel pregnant (pregnancy tests can actually still show as positive too).

Deciding how to discuss the situation was helpful.

What followed the scan (I’d prefer not to talk about that moment specifically) was surprising. Because amongst all the shock, sadness and confusion came positives, too. Like a strengthened bond between my husband and I. Within an hour or so, we’d decided how we would refer to what had happened - a sort of reframing, if you will.

We decided we wouldn’t refer to it as a ‘loss’ - instead, we’d talk about it as an addition to our already-happy life that wasn’t meant to be right now, but will be one day. That was important. When we were told the baby may never have had a heartbeat, we agreed between us that we’d say, “The baby just didn’t grow anymore”. Not that it died. Obviously, everybody’s experience and perspective will be different. Some may prefer to consider it a ‘loss’, whether it happens at eight weeks or 38. That’s entirely their prerogative and I understand it. But for us, this felt more helpful and soothing.

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Everybody reacts differently - and that's OK.

Before my experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what to say to someone experiencing a missed or silent miscarriage. I might have been scared to say anything, except, “How are you feeling?”. Now I know how important that question really was. It gave me the opportunity to explore how I felt. And in the same way no two people will react the same to things like death, spiders or Ricky Gervais, no two people will experience a missed miscarriage in the same way, either.

Together, we agreed how we would tell people. It would be sad news obviously, but we’d also share how we were choosing to view it. And how we’d prefer others to refer to it as well. Friends and family respected our wishes, not using the phrase, “Sorry for your loss”. Instead, they chose to join us in looking forward, seeing it as just a “shit situation”. We told them to never forget the moment we told them the lovely news, as we certainly weren’t going to.

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It puts things into perspective somehow.

What happened also helped confirm to us that it was definitely something we wanted. A year ago, the idea of having a baby and family of our own freaked us out a little. Now we know, we definitely want it. Before I went into hospital for a medically managed miscarriage, I remember telling my husband that if I was in pain from the contractions, to remind me that, “Once this is over, we will start again”.

Returning to hospital for the procedure was incredibly hard. But it was a day we were brought closer than we’d ever been before. Truly, my husband was my rock and exactly what I needed. I can’t imagine how hard it would be going through that experience without support. It’s funny how we might often wish our partners to be a certain way in certain situations. But my husband’s emotional and logical support was what got me through it. And honestly, it’s what has kept my head level throughout this whole recovery.

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There may be small positives amid the sadness.

My husband and I have coped differently in some ways though. We have both found humour at dark times - I can still picture us both laughing hysterically at inappropriate moments in hospital. But he prefers not to talk about it with others and would like to leave the memory behind, which I respect. He found it insensitive when people sent flowers. Whereas I appreciated it and don’t mind talking about it. Although one thing we have silently agreed is that we don’t talk about the scan itself.

For me, sharing my experience is important because although having a miscarriage can be heartbreaking and often life-changing, I believe it is something you can get through and overcome. That's if you look at it and experience it in ways that are right for you. On the surface it is a loss and people will send their condolences. But deep down, it will be your own experience and you will cope with it in your own special way. There is no wrong or right way. You may not realise it at the time - or even imagine that there could be - but there will be positives to your experience. In my case, it brought me closer to my husband, family and friends. And it helped me look even more forward to the future, because I truly believe I will be a mum one day.

For more information on missed miscarriages, visit The Miscarriage Association

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