In March 2017, I suffered my fourth early miscarriage. Anybody who has been through the heartbreak of miscarriage will know what a devastating and lonely experience it is. To go through this repeatedly is agonising.
Every time it happens, the worry that something is wrong and that there is an underlying cause of your miscarriages grows. My biggest fear has always been that my pregnancies have been viable and my miscarriages might have been preventable. I therefore found it very difficult to accept, after my second loss, that the NHS would only offer tests for the causes of my miscarriages if I went through this devastating experience for a third time.
Thankfully, I was incredibly fortunate to have a successful third pregnancy, and now have a beautiful two-year old little boy.
When my son was 18 months old, my partner and I decided that it was time for him to have a little brother or sister. Naively, I let myself believe that everything would be fine this time, only to face that familiar sinking feeling when I noticed some spotting at five and a half weeks. This was my third miscarriage, which would be closely followed by a fourth a few months later.
The one thing that I took from this was that now, surely, somebody will care. I will not be on my own any longer; I will stop hearing, ‘Oh, it’s just bad luck’, and I might start to get some answers about why this is happening to me again and again.
In researching my options, I came across Tommy’s Charity and the amazing work they have done setting up Specialist Miscarriage Research Centres. After checking that I met the criteria for referral, I spoke to my doctor.
It was at this point that I became aware of the serious lack of miscarriage care and support that is available in Wales. Not only this, but the Welsh NHS actively prevents women in Wales from accessing specialised care in England.
Welsh women enduring the devastation of multiple miscarriages are being given very little hope of understanding why this is happening to them. This lack of care and support at one of the loneliest and most difficult times in their lives is leaving them isolated and hopeless.
The policy in Wales is for women to receive their care in Wales; women need to have exhausted options in Wales (and none of this care is specialised) and have the written support of their consultant before they stand any chance of getting a referral to specialised service across the border.
This is a harrowing experience for parents and can take a painfully long time. Even if referrals across the border were easier, the distances involved would make accessing this care prohibitive for many.
In my case it took five months to finally see a local consultant, where I had an examination and two blood tests. I was never told my results, despite chasing them up several times.
I thought that, at the very least, I would be offered a reassurance scan during my last pregnancy – my GP tried, but the hospital refused.
In short, women all over Wales are having to endure the devastation of multiple miscarriages, whilst being given very little hope of understanding why this is happening to them. This lack of care and support at one of the loneliest and most difficult times in their lives is leaving thousands of couples feeling isolated and hopeless.
The care that women receive in Early Pregnancy Units, when going through a miscarriage, is also far from ideal. The need for better care is demonstrated in recent research which shows that nearly 40% of all women experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) three months after their miscarriage.
The lack of care for Welsh couples is utterly unacceptable – and totally unfair. I decided to start a petition calling on the Welsh Assembly to provide quality, specialised miscarriages services for women here.
Both FTWW and I hope that we can achieve much better care for women in Wales by showing the Health Secretary that there is a definite need for these services. It would help if people who have experienced problems in accessing quality care in Wales could share their stories on the petition. This information will be invaluable in convincing Welsh Government that the current set-up is not fit for purpose and that it is having a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of thousands of women in Wales.
Jessica lives in Llangollen, North Wales. In November 2017, she launched a campaign calling on the NHS in Wales to provide better miscarriage care for women in Wales. Jessica became involved with the work done by FTWW when it became clear that the problems with accessing miscarriage care in the Wales also existed for many other conditions. Through this campaign, she and FTWW are hoping to help highlight, once again, the difficulty in gaining cross border referrals and how this can prevent many people in Wales accessing the care and support that they need.