Pregnancy is presented as the most exciting time in a woman’s life – but for many, behind closed doors, it’s riddled with fear, anxiety and panic over whether their baby will make it to term – particularly if they’ve suffered a heartbreaking loss before.
Here, blogger Anna Whitehouse, also known as Mother Pukka, opens up about her concerns throughout her current pregnancy after experiencing a previous miscarriage, and why it’s so important for all pregnant women to seek help if they have any worries, no matter how seemingly small.
It’s a word used for weddings, engagements, exams results, new homes and births. For me, it’s not a word that sits well with pregnancy. When you tell someone you are pregnant, it’s an obvious exclamation – it is, of course, a nice thing to say.
But what is doesn’t account for is the deep-rooted anxiety surrounding the fact that you’re not even out of the starting blocks; that your uterus has every chance of being the one to fail at carrying that life. How can you congratulate a 1500m runner at the 200m mark? Perhaps ‘keep going’ or ‘c’mon girl’ fits the bill, but for me it isn’t (I’m eight months pregnant) or wasn’t (I have a three year old) a celebratory time.
For every moment I allowed myself to ponder that flicker of life inside, I would be jolted out of those musings by a sickening fear that this one wouldn’t make it to the finishing line. There was the fear of decorating the nursery too soon; the fear of choosing a name too early; the heart stopping moments of waiting three seconds too long for a heartbeat at a routine scan.
While I have miscarried along the way to procreation, I don’t think that fear is shackled only to those who have suffered loss. Everyone questions the viability of their uterus at some point; anyone who knows what it is to love someone knows what it is to lose someone.
In this pregnancy, I was in hospital at four months with dehydration because of extreme morning sickness or hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). I’d heard all about the ‘glow’ you get through pregnancy, I knew about the cracking boobs that came with the maternal package – I was even genned up on the best post-partum sanitary pads to throw money at.
But what I hadn’t been aware of was that HG dehydration could cause a foetal heart to stop.
I didn’t realise that bleeding throughout pregnancy was fairly normal for some women and a sign of an ‘inviable foetus’ for others. It was a game of biological snakes and ladders where the Internet could offer up two extreme answers for every one scenario. My Google results ran the full gamut of ‘this is normal, all will be well’ to ‘this is a sign of miscarriage, seek medical help immediately’ from one simple search word.
Despite never being a worrier previously, here I found myself in no (wo)man’s land; it was (and still is) a confused arena of fear and excitement – the former overpowering the latter.
All I do know is that the Internet does not have all the answers; the Internet cannot listen to your body or look you in the eyes and see that primitive maternal fear. It cannot listen, only broadcast. When the Internet was telling me that mild Braxton Hicks contractions were normal at 28 weeks with my daughter Mae, I reluctantly questioned the pixels with a visit to an actual human – my midwife – who confirmed I’d gone into labour.
Without listening to my basic human instincts, I wouldn’t have been administered steroids to halt the contractions and my daughter would have come prematurely at 28 weeks.
When Mae was born 10 weeks later, I lapped up all the ‘congratulations’ kindly friends and relatives could muster. For then, after what had been a 38-week journey of significant peaks and troughs, I could truly sit back and feel like I’d actually won.
Tommy’s, with King’s College London and Babycentre.com, has launched a safer pregnancy campaign to empower pregnant women to overcome fears about speaking to professionals about health concerns. The aim of the campaign is to reduce the number of women who end up with serious pregnancy complications or loss.
Research from King’s College London has shown that women’s knowledge about their own changing body is invaluable in contributing to safer pregnancies but that they often struggle to voice their instincts and concerns. If you are pregnant and have any concerns, speak to your midwife or contact Tommy’s for further help and advice.