Family

Miscarriage and its effects

A miscarriage can have a profound effect on parents' lives

By Andrew McNulty

From the very moment you get a positive pregnancy test, your life changes. oorning sickness has set in, your favourite jeans no longer fit - even though you don't think you're "showing" yet - and you're debating names with your partner. Then suddenly, you start bleeding, or a routine scan shows a baby, but no heartbeat.

Learning the terrible news that you've miscarried is devastating.

In New Zealand, a miscarriage is defined as a pregnancy that ends spontaneously before 20 weeks, with the baby not usually being born alive and weighing under 400g. If the baby weighs more than 400g or is born after 20 weeks, the loss is known as a stillbirth. But no textbook definition can ease the heartache and trauma of losing your baby before he or she was even born.

Almost one in every four pregnancies ends in miscarriage before 20 weeks of gestation. And for the majority of miscarriages, the cause is a mystery. According to The Nurture Foundation, more than half of all miscarriages are a result of chromosomal problems or genetic abnormalities in the fetus that stop it from developing.

What can i do?

The symptoms of miscarriage will vary depending on how far along you are in pregnancy, and the cause of the miscarriage. Bleeding is common, but some miscarriages are discovered during pregnancy scans that show a lack of heartbeat or an empty fetal sac. It's very important to seek immediate medical help if you think you're having a miscarriage.

If you're concerned about the possibility of losing your baby, talk to your doctor or midwife about the risk factors that may apply to you. Women with endometriosis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease, congenital heart defects, colitis, bacterial vaginosis, blood clotting disorders, STDs, and other severe infections have a higher risk of miscarriage. Also, both smoking and consumption of alcohol have been linked to miscarriage risk as well.

For more support:

A new book, Baby Gone: True New Zealand Stories of Infertility, oiscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss, by Jenny Douché, includes 45 true stories from Kiwis who are living with baby loss.

These websites offer some excellent information and support for Kiwi parents who are experiencing the pain of miscarriage, stillbirth, or baby loss.

  • The Lost ones www.thelostones.co.nz
  • oiscarriage Support Auckland www.miscarriagesupport.org.nz
  • oy Angel www.myangel.co.nz
  • The Nurture Foundation www.nurture.org.nz
  • SANDS New Zealand www.sands.org.nz

It can happen to anyone

Tauranga mum Denise Coy knows first-hand the pain of baby loss. Her daughter Angela died in utero and was born at just under 20 weeks in November 2010, a tiny but perfectly formed baby her parents were able to hold and say goodbye to.

"I felt so empty-handed after Angela's birth," says Denise, a mum of three boys. "Parents who have a miscarriage or stillbirth are cheated of the experience of cuddling and loving their baby, getting to know him or her, and watching for the first smile. We're left with nothing."

Inspired by her daughter's short but meaningful life, Denise, a web designer, created a website to help other parents who are experiencing the grief of infant loss. My Angel launched on March 28 - Angela's original due date. The website has information as well as personal stories, articles, and poetry. My Angel also sells keepsakes - "for parents to have a tangible reminder of their baby, something to hold when their hearts are aching," explains Denise, who wears some of Angela's ashes in a heart-shaped locket around her neck.

Denise and her husband Vaughan held a funeral service for Angela, along with a naming ceremony.

"I was thrilled that so many friends and family attended and supported us. They accept I've lost my daughter, my fourth child," Denise says.

"I'll probably never know why I lost her."

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