Miscarriage called ‘a silent hurt’

Barb
Barb Sweet
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Woman shocked that nothing seems to have changed since her own ordeal a decade ago

WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS DISTURBING CONTENT

A woman who complained a decade ago to health officials about the handling of miscarriages is alarmed at Telegram stories detailing pregnant women’s experiences in the emergency room.
The woman now worries her complaint may have been made in vain.

Warning: this story contains graphic content

 

“There are so many women out there that have gone through an ordeal of this nature, and we have to be the voices for those women that remain silent,” said the Mount Pearl mother of two.

“However, there are so many more women who will suffer miscarriages, and I think the health-care system needs to make vast improvements to the policies and procedures women endure while going through something as horrific as a miscarriage.

“I tried to make a difference 10 years ago and I am truly disgusted that the assurance of change made to me by our health-care system has not come into play. I read this stuff (in The Telegram) Monday — honest to God, obviously nothing ever got changed to help women like myself that go in there. … They can’t keep doing this to women.”

She’s not prepared to have her name used because she didn’t share her experience with all who knew her and doesn’t want to revisit the emotional pain.

“It’s not a place I want to go back to now,” said the woman, who still finds each January to be difficult.

She was reacting to Telegram stories in the last two weeks in which women and their spouses spoke out about their miscarriage experiences, in particular of going to the emergency room for treatment.

At least a dozen people have personally contacted The Telegram with their stories.

Overwhelmingly, they have expressed dismay at being treated in the ER, where they say the emotional trauma of their pregnancy ending falls by the wayside. Most were referring to the Health Sciences Centre, but two recounted experiences in Carbonear and one in Burin.

According to Eastern Health policy, women who are fewer than 20 weeks pregnant are first assessed in the ER; women who are 20 weeks or more along in their pregnancy are sent to the labour and delivery unit for assessment. So are women who don’t know how far along they are. Women are also advised to go to the ER for issues not related to their pregnancy.

In January 2003, the Mount Pearl woman, who then had a toddler and was 19 weeks’ pregnant, went to the ER, where she encountered a compassionate doctor, but was sent home awaiting test results.

The next day she was called back for an ultrasound through the women’s health clinic and found out her baby was no longer alive.

She said she was prescribed the drug Misoprostol — which starts labour — and was sent home with little information on what to expect. The woman wrote the disturbing details of what happened over the next days in a subsequent letter to the then St. John’s Health Care Corp.

The letter describes labour contractions, excessive bleeding — so much so that her mattress and carpet were saturated beyond saving — and the discharge of the dead fetus in her bathroom.

She removed what she thought was the placenta from the toilet. She says she could make out the features of the baby, which she also recovered.

“That morning was one that will stay with me forever like a picture that will never be erased from my mind. I took his arms and folded them on his chest and wrapped him in a tissue and placed him in a small jewelry box,” the woman wrote of the remains, which were eventually buried in her grandfather’s grave.

Days later she was back at emergency and was told to keep taking the drug.

“When I finally got into a room, there was so much blood and blood clots that it went through the bed and started to collect in the pan beneath me. I got off the bed and went into the bathroom where blood trailed behind me and clots as big as my fist were pouring out of me,” she said.

Back home again, she said, she continued to bleed heavily and passed out. During a return visit to the hospital, she found out the placenta was still inside her.

Maternity floor nurses did treat her with dignity, she recalled.

But she wishes she had initially demanded a dilation and curettage (D and C) — a procedure to scrape and collect tissue in the uterus— instead of taking the prescription drug.

“I really blame the health-care system for what I had to go through and I just hope that someone can make a difference. Women’s health should not be ignored as it is today in our health system,” the woman said in that 2003 letter, which she said prompted a meeting with then health-care officials and doctors.

A decade later, she’s horrified women are expressing similar dismay about recent miscarriage experiences, but she’s glad they are speaking out about it.

“It’s like a silent hurt no one talks about,” she said. “I’d like to see it become a huge deal.”

The woman said during her experience, waiting after the ultrasound, she buried her face in her husband’s chest while sitting in the clinic waiting room and doesn’t think anyone in that situation should have to suffer their loss in public view, so she was disturbed to read of women waiting in the ER while suffering miscarriages.

“They are bleeding. They are cramping. They are an emotional wreck. Have them in a separate room, lying on a bed until the (specialist) comes in ... not out in a waiting room, not standing up against the wall or sitting on a gurney in the hallway. That’s not right,” she said.

She’d also like to see the policy changed so that women suffering a miscarriage can go to the labour room when they are at least 10 weeks pregnant.

But regardless of what unit they are treated on, the women should be in a private room with a bathroom, and be checked on periodically, she said.

“To have a room set aside is not a big deal,” the woman said.

“Miscarriages happen every single day. It doesn’t matter how many weeks you are along — it’s always an emotional event. I don’t feel the health-care system looks at it serious enough.”

As for the drug she was given, she said she feels women should not be sent home with it.

But an Eastern Health spokeswoman said Misoprostol is approved in Canada for medical management of pregnancies complicated with fetal death and is considered the safest drug for that type of use.

The drug causes contractions in the uterus and may take anywhere from one to four days to take effect, which means it’s an outpatient treatment across Canada, according to Eastern Health.

But the spokeswoman said while it is prescribed here, patients are given specific instructions to return to an emergency department if they experience excessive bleeding.

 

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Organizations: Eastern Health, Health Sciences Centre

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Carbonear, Burin.According Canada

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Recent comments

  • DJD
    November 15, 2013 - 17:24

    my daughter went to Carbonear Hospital to the walk in clinic in may 2012 ,she was a couple months pregnant,and bleeding ,she was sent to the emergency and seen by a nurse,it was 12;30 pm,told to go out and wait until she was called,she was in such misery,sweating,heavy cramping ,we went back to the nurse and was told she would move her up,by 7:30 we were fed up and decided to go to town,when she stood up she was flooding and I lost it,they called her in and was told she had lost it,she probably would have lost it anyhow but she should not have gone through it in a waiting room full of people.poisoned with it all...

  • CB
    November 14, 2013 - 20:14

    My wife and I experienced two miscarriages in recent years. We were able to avoid the ER as she was under referred to the women's health department by our family Dr. We found the Eastern Health medical staff to be very companionate and they seemed to understand the heartbreaking event we were experiencing. Women and their families should not be left in the ER when they are experiencing this tremendous stress and feeling of loss. No matter how common miscarriage may be, it is devastating and for many is one of the few times, in their otherwise healthy youth, that they truly depend on the health care system. One eastern health receptionist (not sure if she was a nurse) was mean to my wife on a follow up visit, but this was the exception in our experience (still something that EH should try to prevent though). That was hard enough to deal with - I can't imagine what it must feel like to be treated poorly during an emergency situation.

  • South lands Mom
    November 14, 2013 - 17:10

    I feel for all these families. I have to say that I was treated with respect and dignity when I went to the ER having a miscarriage. They took me in right away. I was alone, my husband was home with our kids. That made my nerves a little shaky. However, I was seen very quickly, and treated with compassion. I had an appointment at the Woman's Health Centre within a week, ( my situation wasn't dire). And I was given an ultrasound whereby they found out I had a blighted ovum, and then the spontaneous abortion drug. It was very difficult, but these things happen. The health care professionals I encountered were wonderful. I am sorry that others have had very sad and distressing experiences.

  • Brad
    November 14, 2013 - 13:38

    I was in the HSC which one of my relatives was in for major pains while she was 24 weeks pregnant. I went up there and she was still in pain, and was never checked on...but the nurses had no problem standing around, chatting, texting their friends, or going on facebook. Eastern Health needs to review their staff, a lot of people I think are in nursing for the easy money and overtime, not for what the job actually entails. Maybe if they got off their phones and actually did their jobs, we wouldnt be having those complaints! And they complain about being understaffed. Yea right!

  • Shocked and appalled
    November 14, 2013 - 11:19

    I cannot believe, that in this day and age, Mothers losing their babies to miscarriage or stillbirth are still being treated like this. You would be treated with more compassion and dignity if you went to the ER with a common cold. Change is needed. Education and training are needed for ER staff. Services and resources for mothers and fathers experiencing the loss of a child are needed. BADLY needed. How many more horror stories doe the powers that be at Eastern Health need to hear before they do something? Does a mother need to DIE while awaiting treatment for an ectopic pregnancy for them to take this seriously? In the meantime, while we wait for Eastern Health to WAKE UP, parents who've experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage/stillbirth/infant death are welcome to join the Facebook group Pregnancy and Infant Loss Newfoundland and Labrador. https://www.facebook.com/groups/pailnl/ Please don't suffer alone.

  • BAYMAN
    November 14, 2013 - 10:38

    The fact that The Telegram does not publish readers comments about Eastern Health, just ignores and does not help improve this sort of situation.

  • hurting never completely stops
    November 14, 2013 - 09:20

    well I miscarried at home without Misoprostol as I was told that it was safer for my body to clean out on its own, thats after finding out my baby had died...hard enough to deal with.....my miscarriage started at 530 and lasted until 430 the next morning, nothing could have every prepared me for what happenend in that time frame....scarred...scarred for life is one phrase that describes my experience after a horrible experience at the HSC 4 months prior with a previous miscarriage.......I was offered nothing, but the internet as my support and information........lockily I found support from my employee assistance program at work, I am starting to finally "start to understand and deal with" what had happen and the tragedy I had experienced with moth miscarriages. My heart goes out to every woman who has every had a miscarriage. A piece of you dies at that point in time. I wish we could have gotten support and help, but we are stronger for having to do this on our own and prospering into the strong women we are today.

  • Still hurting
    November 14, 2013 - 08:12

    Wow. I read this story and I say finally....finally someone is listening. The Health Science Centre is the worse place to go if you are having a miscarriage. I would NEVER recommend the HSC if you are having pregnancy related issues. I have many pregnany related horror stories about the HSC. My first experience at the HSC was similar to this story except that it took me 11 months to finally get a D&C after Misoprostol didn't work for me. Let me tell you how shocking the pamplet about Misoprostol is when the first thing you read is says this drug meant for serious arthritis but "the Health Science Centre has found that is effective in spontaneous abortions". And this is thrown in your hand you and you are shown the door. I didn't want an abortion! I was miscarrying! There were no explanations of what is going to happen, the 1-800 health line knew nothing about the drug, and when you have spent 3 days in a hot bath hoping to soothe the pain and have no choice but to show back up at Emergency you have to beg them not to make you wait another 6 hours to see a Doctor. The HSC is a disgrace for pregnant and miscarrying women.

  • silent hurt
    November 14, 2013 - 06:58

    As someone who suffered a miscarriage in January 2013, I'm going to call BS on the "specific instructions" about misoprostol. Thank god for google giving me some sort of idea, or I would have been scarred for life after that started to work while I was at home. I also thank god for a supportive husband who is not queasy about that sort of thing, and I can't imagine going through it by myself, or in the eyes of the general public in an ER waiting room. Thankfully I did get to avoid the ER thanks to my family doc referring me to the EPAC clinic at the HSC at the first sign of trouble.

  • Karen fiander
    November 14, 2013 - 05:33

    I myself had a similar incident while pregnant in 2005. I began bleeding and went directly to the health sciences ER. After waiting for hours they finally took me in for an exam and realized i had a hematoma the size of an orange right next to the fetus which was only 5 weeks at the time. Ur going to misscarry they said. I didnt know what to do? They told me they'd keep me in overnight due to the size of the bloodclot and put me in a room with an eldery lady who was dieing with cancer. Nobody checked on me all night, myself and the unknown woman from the west coast talked alot that night about what we were both going through. I felt horrible for her as she had no hope left of recovering from her dreadful disease and i had very little hope of my 2nd child ever seeing this world. She told me she'd say many prayers that night in hopes the baby would make it! I cried the whole night in my pillow until i feel asleep. The next morning the doctor walked in the room and said ur still here? I figured u would have miscarried by now, he said. I was shocked...they then brought me down for a second ultrasound and when the technician looked the whole hemmatoma the size of an orange had vanished she was astounded. The baby was doing well and they had no explanation to five me except it happens. They released me that day and i am forever greatful to the unknown lady who prayed to god for my help! I have my almost 7 yr old son in my life today thanks to her and we are blessed but if it was not for her my story may have ended differently. Its sad really the way they treat you when you baby isnt over 20 wks. Its still a baby and couples try for years to get that far only to be treated like its no big deal when a miscarriage occurs. Its a very big deal...huge actually! The feelings, emotions, loss and hurt are enormous for a family dealing with it.

  • Karen fiander
    November 14, 2013 - 05:32

    I myself had a similar incident while pregnant in 2005. I began bleeding and went directly to the health sciences ER. After waiting for hours they finally took me in for an exam and realized i had a hematoma the size of an orange right next to the fetus which was only 5 weeks at the time. Ur going to misscarry they said. I didnt know what to do? They told me they'd keep me in overnight due to the size of the bloodclot and put me in a room with an eldery lady who was dieing with cancer. Nobody checked on me all night, myself and the unknown woman from the west coast talked alot that night about what we were both going through. I felt horrible for her as she had no hope left of recovering from her dreadful disease and i had very little hope of my 2nd child ever seeing this world. She told me she'd say many prayers that night in hopes the baby would make it! I cried the whole night in my pillow until i feel asleep. The next morning the doctor walked in the room and said ur still here? I figured u would have miscarried by now, he said. I was shocked...they then brought me down for a second ultrasound and when the technician looked the whole hemmatoma the size of an orange had vanished she was astounded. The baby was doing well and they had no explanation to five me except it happens. They released me that day and i am forever greatful to the unknown lady who prayed to god for my help! I have my almost 7 yr old son in my life today thanks to her and we are blessed but if it was not for her my story may have ended differently. Its sad really the way they treat you when you baby isnt over 20 wks. Its still a baby and couples try for years to get that far only to be treated like its no big deal when a miscarriage occurs. Its a very big deal...huge actually! The feelings, emotions, loss and hurt are enormous for a family dealing with it.

  • Karen fiander
    November 14, 2013 - 05:31

    I myself had a similar incident while pregnant in 2005. I began bleeding and went directly to the health sciences ER. After waiting for hours they finally took me in for an exam and realized i had a hematoma the size of an orange right next to the fetus which was only 5 weeks at the time. Ur going to misscarry they said. I didnt know what to do? They told me they'd keep me in overnight due to the size of the bloodclot and put me in a room with an eldery lady who was dieing with cancer. Nobody checked on me all night, myself and the unknown woman from the west coast talked alot that night about what we were both going through. I felt horrible for her as she had no hope left of recovering from her dreadful disease and i had very little hope of my 2nd child ever seeing this world. She told me she'd say many prayers that night in hopes the baby would make it! I cried the whole night in my pillow until i feel asleep. The next morning the doctor walked in the room and said ur still here? I figured u would have miscarried by now, he said. I was shocked...they then brought me down for a second ultrasound and when the technician looked the whole hemmatoma the size of an orange had vanished she was astounded. The baby was doing well and they had no explanation to five me except it happens. They released me that day and i am forever greatful to the unknown lady who prayed to god for my help! I have my almost 7 yr old son in my life today thanks to her and we are blessed but if it was not for her my story may have ended differently. Its sad really the way they treat you when you baby isnt over 20 wks. Its still a baby and couples try for years to get that far only to be treated like its no big deal when a miscarriage occurs. Its a very big deal...huge actually! The feelings, emotions, loss and hurt are enormous for a family dealing with it.