Finding yourself in an EPU is not a cheerful experience. You’re there because something isn’t ‘normal’. Maybe you’ve had some spotting, maybe some cramping. Maybe both. Maybe you’re there because you’ve miscarried before, and they need to check everything has gone. Maybe you’re pregnant again, and they are checking to see whether things are progressing normally this time. Maybe you’re dates are ‘off’, and you’ve been waiting a week to see if there will be a change, or any growth at all, before they declare your miscarriage official.
You may have been admitted to A&E earlier that day. Or the day before, or the day before that, and you are now getting the scan they didn’t have the equipment or expertise to give you at that time.
In truth, I’ve had some very good and some very bad experiences in EPUs.Sometimes you are in waiting rooms with others like you, sometimes you have to walk past the happy ‘normal’ pregnant ladies, better times you don’t. Actually, even when you don’t actually see them, you can sometimes hear their babies heartbeats through the open doors from the 20 week scan ladies as nurses tend to them. The sound every anxious parent wants to hear? Not this one, not today.
‘Its not good news’. ‘It’s OK.’ You will hear one of these two things when you are at the EPU. But before you hear either, you will hear nothing. The silence. Of course they have to look and see what’s going on, and you want accurate information. But that silence seems to stretch out for an endless age. Screw dignity. The silence is the worst. News, good or bad, you can deal with, but not knowing tears you apart.
If anything could be worse than a scan at the EPU (no matter how good, and kind they are), its the devastation of getting the news at an official 12/13 week scan. There, they are not usually in the business of bad news, because statistically most of the bad news happens before you get to that stage, but missed miscarriages do happen and are discovered at routine scans. In these cases, you may be able to see for yourself on a mounted screen on the wall before the sonographer even needs to tell you. Then, go to the toilet and empty your bladder, try not to frighten the other expectant couples. You are the one no-one wants to think about, or to look at. You are the one that makes people say ‘I don’t know what I would do if that happened to me.’ Well, I know. You get on with it. You can’t change it just because you don’t like it, or because its hard.
I remember going for a follow up scan at UCLH having just learned at our local services routine 13 week scan that the baby, who was alive and well at 9.1 weeks had died at about 10. I had seen the sonographer before, and everyone was so nice. ‘How are you today?’, ‘We already know the baby’s died’. They checked, confirmed, asked me if I wanted to look (totally my choice, I did look). Then they discussed my options and booked my surgery. I was clear that I wanted the ERPC done by a consultant using ultrasound guidance because of my previous history. I’d have to wait a bit longer, but I was OK with that. Better get it done properly than have a repeat of what happened after MMC 2. I cannot praise the staff at the EPU at UCLH highly enough (http://www.uclh.nhs.uk/ourservices/servicea-z/wh/gynae/gdtu/Pages/Home.aspx).
Mumsnet’s miscarriage care campaign (http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/miscarriage-care-campaign) highlights the need for improving way miscarrying women are treated. Let’s face it, having a miscarriage is always awful. But its the little things that EPUs and A&E departments can do to make it slightly less traumatic which need to be addressed.
This video highlights the aims of the campaign. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kl1vPEUNfw8
If you like, or feel you have been helped by what you have read here, please share it. If you want to see more, why not follow me? Thank you for reading!