Pregnancy is often celebrated and is a joyous occasion for the happy couple and also those around them. However, an often unspoken part about such joy is loss and this is referring to miscarriage. Talking about miscarriage is seen as taboo as it’s ‘unlucky’ and couples are afraid to jinx their pregnancy. Plenty of couples have gone through this unfortunate event but overcame their hardships and were granted happiness just a little later than planned.
1Twenty80 speaks to homemaker, Chong Meei Huey about her experience with miscarriages, how she coped and is now blessed with two beautiful boys!
Quote: I chose to trust my own body that I can conceive and carry my baby to term.
1Twenty80: Could you share with us about when the miscarriage occurred?
Chong Meei Huey: I had three miscarriages. The first in 2010, when I was 31 years old. There was no heartbeat detected at eight weeks for my first pregnancy and dilation and curettage (D&C) was done in November 2010.
I conceived again the following year with the help of medication – I had twins this time! However, one of the babies did not grow from the first scan. There was one baby left for the pregnancy, and everything seemed fine until the third follow up with the doctor and there was no heartbeat detected when the doctor put the doppler on my belly. I lost my baby again. D&C was also done, and we sent the foetus for various test. The result came back and it said that my baby girl was genetically normal, so the problem could be me. A few blood tests were done in order to find the problem, but nothing was found and I was living in self-blame and guilt for a long period.
I couldn’t conceive after that for five years and we went through IUI, IVF and also traditional Chinese medicine. I failed IVF after two rounds of embryo transfer and I still had my last final chance. The treatment is extremely stressful, and I decided not to try it again until I am ready. It affected my body a lot physically as well as mentally. At the same time, I slowly convinced myself and my husband about adoption.
Surprisingly I conceived again in 2017 but this pregnancy also ended up miscarrying. When I sought a second opinion, the doctor asked me to consider adoption. He said I may not be able to have my own child because I may miscarry even if I conceived again.
Despite this, I am very intuitive and still saw things very positively. To me, this baby gave me lots of hope and courage. I have not been able to conceive for so many years but finally at 37 years old, I conceived naturally!
I chose to trust my own body that I can conceive and carry my baby to term. “I can have a healthy baby,” I told myself. True enough, after a few months, I conceived my first born and delivered my oldest boy in 2018!
1Twenty80: How did it affect yourself?
Meei Huey: My body became very weak after the second miscarriage. I was very concerned about my diet for years after the first miscarriage. I never touched those ‘cold’ foods that may affect my womb such as ice, cold drinks, raw vegetables, and certain fruits.
My hormones went haywire especially after IVF with mood swings, hot flashes, menses cramps and weight gain. All these really brought me down. There were also times when I isolated myself from my close friends because they were having their babies. I always felt very happy for them but sorry for myself.
The whole journey was very long and lonely. Having a baby was so hard for me because no matter how much effort I put in, there was still no guarantee for me to have my own baby.
1Twenty80: How did your husband support you during this difficult time?
Meei Huey: He couldn’t do much as he was also very sad. He told me that it is alright if we do not have our own kids. He never talked about the baby but became more concerned about my feelings and emotions.
I took about six months to grieve. However, I did break down sometimes when I thought about my stillborn babies. I still remember crying badly when I saw the ultrasound photo I kept for my stillborn, even after having my elder son. It is still very painful.
For me, it is alright to talk about miscarriage. Do not pretend that the pregnancy never happened. You will feel worse, by doing so. Talk to your partner, close friends or whoever you trust when you need to release your feelings.
1Twenty80: What is your advice to couples who have experienced miscarriage?
Meei Huey: It is painful to lose your baby but it is not the end of the world. Life still goes on and don’t take too much time to grieve, I know it’s hard but try your best to be positive!
A MEDICAL ISSUE
Miscarriage is a medical issue as well which is why we also spoke to Prince Court Medical Centre’s Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, and Maternal Medicine, Dr. Shilpa Nambiar for her expert advice.
1Twenty80: What is a miscarriage?
Dr. Shilpa Nambiar: A miscarriage is a natural loss of a pregnancy before the foetus is developed enough to survive outside the womb. This usually happens before 20 weeks to 24 weeks. A majority of miscarriages occur in the first trimester and is usually detected when an ultrasound reveals the pregnancy has stopped growing or the loss of the baby’s heartbeat that was previously seen.
Quote: It is painful to lose your baby but that is not the end of the world.
1Twenty80: What could cause a miscarriage?
Dr. Shilpa: Miscarriages can happen for a variety of reasons, many of which are not within a person’s control. Most first trimester miscarriages are a result of genetic or chromosomal issues. Genetic material comes from both the mother and father, but errors can happen when there has been a damaged sperm or egg, when cells do not grow normally.
However, having underlying health conditions before becoming pregnant, being an older mother or father during conception, lifestyle habits like smoking or drinking alcohol, certain drugs, or problems with the shape of the womb can increase the risk of having a miscarriage.
1Twenty80: What symptoms would possibly signal a miscarriage?
Dr. Shilpa: Symptoms such as bleeding or cramping pain while pregnant could signal the start of a miscarriage. Some women experience vaginal discharge that looks like tissue. It is important to see a doctor as soon as these symptoms happen to make a correct diagnosis, to ensure that the pregnancy is in the right place and to prevent further excessive bleeding. Occasionally, a woman might have a silent miscarriage where there are no symptoms, but the doctor finds that the baby has stopped growing when an ultrasound is performed.
1Twenty80: What kind of effects could a miscarriage have on someone’s mental health?
Dr. Shilpa: The physical effects although unpleasant are insignificant compared to the emotional toll on the couple. The loss of a baby at any stage of pregnancy is devastating and often, what follows are feelings of guilt and self-blame. I usually advise women to take time off work when this happens not so much for physical recovery but to come to terms with what has happened and to give time for grief.
I think any practitioner who sees a couple who have experienced a miscarriage must spend some time talking through it and emphasize that it is no one’s fault. They will need space to express their fears and ask the questions that are worrying them. Whether this type of counselling is enough or if the couple needs help from a mental health professional depends on how badly affected they are and how much help they feel they need. How much counselling is needed varies but there must be some form of counselling from their first point of contact.
1Twenty80: What is your advice to couples who have experienced a miscarriage?
Dr. Shilpa: My advice is to be strong. As awful as it is to have a miscarriage, it is also something that is common with up to 15 percent of pregnancies ending in a miscarriage. There is usually no need to look for a cause when there is unlikely to be one and it only results in more stress waiting for results. Fortunately, most couples go on to have healthy babies afterwards but for a minority of women for whom this has happened more than once, their doctor may need to organise more tests to see why it is happening.
After a miscarriage, although the physical recovery to get pregnant again is as quick as the return to normal menstruation, I feel that emotional recovery takes more time and a couple must go through their grieving process before they can be ready to start trying again.