'My world fell apart': one woman's story of miscarriage
Blighted ovum is a pregnancy where a sac and placenta grow, but a baby does not. Sadly, you'll still get a positive on a pregnancy test. So, as Lyndsey shares, you often don't find out till your 12-week scan...
When Lyndsey Pleass discovered she was pregnant with her first baby, she and husband Dan were delighted.
Sadly, at the 12-week scan they were told there was a pregnancy sac but no baby: Lyndsey had what's called a 'blighted ovum' and, unknown to her, have had a miscarriage. Here she tells MadeForMums her story.
The BFP (big fat positive)
"On 18th January 2018, I had my first positive pregnancy test. I'd come off the Pill in July but knew it'd take a good few months for my body, hormones and periods to get back to normal. So although we'd been having unprotected sex since the summer, this was our first 'proper' attempt at trying to conceive. We were so happy but also shocked that it happened so quickly.
"Straightaway I was online researching all things baby related and that's when I came across the MadeForMums Bump Project [MadeForMums followed a group of mums-to-be for the duration of their pregnancy journey]. I spoke to my husband about it and decided to sign up.
"It was so much fun. I found that I was talking and having opinions on things that ordinarily I would not have thought about. It was also nice being able to talk about my pregnancy when I was trying to keep it secret from everyone else. That bit was very hard. I like talking a lot so keeping it from my family and close friends was so hard!
Telling the family
"Ideally, we'd wanted to wait until after our 12-week scan to tell everyone but at around 10 and a half weeks was our 1st wedding anniversary. We thought that would be the ideal excuse to get both sets of parents and Dan's brothers together for a meal and then tell them all together. So that is exactly what we did. Everyone was so happy and excited for us. I ended up telling my Nan the next day too as my Mum said she wouldn't be able to keep it from her. So she was very excited too.
Lyndsey with husband Dan
"That then led on to telling my Aunty, Uncle and two cousins as my Nan was going there for lunch and there was no possible way she could ever keep a secret. So it had quickly got around my side of the family despite wanting to keep it a secret for another week and a half. I later found out my Nan had also told her friend and sister but not told them it was to be kept quiet so they then told other extended family members. I actually said to my Nan. 'Why did you tell them? What if we go for the scan and something is wrong?'
"We live in Chester so our usual hospital is the Countess of Chester hospital. We'd opted to use the One to One service though which for our area was based in Ellesmere Port. It's only a short drive away and it sounded a much more personal experience. You get 1 designated midwife who sticks with you the whole time and they come to your house for the appointments and fit around your life. That sounded perfect as Dan works shifts so having the option for evening and weekend appointments was great.
The first scan - and the news we weren’t prepared for
"Then came the scan day. Off we went to the appointment. I had a very mixed bag of emotions. I was very excited but also nervous as I didn't really know what to expect and we still hadn't decided 100% on whether to have the screening tests done or not.
"When the scan was taking place, we actually had a big TV screen on the wall in front of us. That would have been great in a normal situation but for us, straightaway, we knew something was wrong.
"We couldn't see a baby and I was asked a lot of questions about when I'd had my last period and when I'd had a positive pregnancy test. I then had to have an internal scan which I definitely was not prepared for. That in itself was nerve-wracking with the added tension that something wasn't right with the baby.
"That was when I felt my world fall apart. I'd had a miscarriage.
"We were told that there was a pregnancy sac but no baby inside. It was called a blighted ovum. That happens when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself.
"The first thing I said to Dan was , 'Sorry'. I instantly thought I'd done (or not done) something wrong. I thought of the day I'd forgotten to take my vitamins, the weekend away where I had a cup of tea as well as a couple of glasses of Coke, the time I'd lifted a box in work that I maybe shouldn't have. Things were racing through my head and I was looking for an answer as to why this happened to us and our little Pip (that's what we'd named the baby for now until it was born).
"It turns out that this had absolutely nothing to do with us. A blighted ovum is usually the result of chromosomal problems. The body recognises abnormal chromosomes in the fetus and then naturally stops it from growing.
"Knowing that helped me to deal with things a little bit better, as if the baby had carried on developing then it would not have been healthy. And statistics show this is the cause of 50% of 1st-trimester miscarriages. There was absolutely nothing we could have done to prevent it.
Why did this happen to us?
"That day was very emotional for us both, and it was so hard telling our family. They were all excited and looking forward to seeing a tiny baby on the scan photo. Although I was very sad and upset, I also felt angry. I didn't see how it was fair. We're both fit, healthy and active and tried to do everything we were supposed to do.
"How do some people end up with healthy babies when they are overweight, lazy, eat rubbish, smoke and drink? Why did this have to happen to us? Were we bad people? I just couldn't stop crying and my head was full of so much stuff, I felt drained. I also felt silly feeling this way as there wasn't actually a baby inside to lose.
"We had to go to the hospital the day after for them to do another scan just to make sure they got the same result. That was just as upsetting as the previous day. Then were told we'd have to go back in another week for a 3rd scan. That week of waiting was awful. I just wanted to get things sorted as soon as possible so we could start to deal with our emotions a bit better.
"In the meantime, I'd got some bad news about my Nan. She'd been taken into hospital as she'd been unwell for a few weeks and had got some test results back. We were told that she wasn't going to get better and she would die. It was just the week from hell.
"I had so many emotions rushing round my body and my Mum was finding it very difficult too. She was worrying about my Nan but also worrying about me. Everything always seems to come at once. It doesn't rain, it pours. Because I was upset about my Nan, that did distract me a bit from thinking about the miscarriage and the upcoming scan.
What had to happen next
"I went back to the hospital the following week for my 3rd scan. Everything was confirmed and we then had to make the decision what to do next. We had a few options which we had already researched. The 1st was to let everything come out naturally. The 2nd was to take a pill to help the process along.
"I didn't want to do either of those as it's all very unpredictable. You could bleed for a few days or a few weeks. The pain can vary from mild cramps to contraction like pains.
"The 3rd option was a small 10-minute operation where they surgically remove everything. We chose this option and decided to have a local anaesthetic, not a general anaesthetic.
"This happened on 20 March. So just shy of 2 weeks since my 1st scan. It had been the longest 2 weeks ever and I just felt a bit drained. I'd also come down with a cough and cold which I'm convinced is from feeling a bit run down emotionally and physically. The procedure went well and I was back home within 2 hours. The staff were so lovely, caring and understanding so I felt very comfortable with them.
Coping with the grief
"We feel, now it's all over, that we have some closure. We are still sad and upset but not to the extent that we cry all the time. Someone told us that it's my body just wasn't quite ready for a baby just yet. We've also learnt that it's a lot more common than people realise: 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage but people don't tend to talk about it.
"I found talking about it really helped me – whether that was to my husband, another family member or a friend. I’ve had days where I feel totally fine and can think about it without getting upset. And I've had days where I'm an emotional wreck and cry a lot. I took myself off on a run up a mountain one day.
"I just needed to clear my head and have time alone. I had to stop and have a cry half way up but I felt a lot better once I got back.
"I understand that there's no right or wrong way for how you should feel when you miscarry and there's also no time limit for dealing with grief. We're going to take each day as it comes and hopefully one day we'll get our beautiful little baby. This time, we had an angel instead."