Story of a Misdiagnosed Miscarriage

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After trying for years, we decided to go to a fertility specialist to help us start a family. The long and short of it is that there were lots of biological challenges, so we headed down the IVF road with the leading specialist in the country. We were lucky and our first round of treatment was textbook; two embryos were placed and we crossed our fingers.

Fast forward to testing day, and yes, I totally cheated and took a home pregnancy test the day before — and it was positive! You can imagine the relief and excitement. Then we were off to the doctor, where blood tests and a scan confirmed there was one fabulous little bun in the oven ready to cook.

Then, after constant blood tests and monitoring, another scan showed a little flickering heartbeat at six and a half weeks. There were no words to describe what it felt like to see that. At seven weeks and two days, we had our final scan appointment with our specialist before being released to the care of a midwife.

And that’s when it all unraveled.

His words were clear but not what we expected. “No heartbeat, not viable, the baby has arrested, very sorry, I’ll send you through to the nurse and she’ll explain the options from here.” Feeling numb, we listened as the nurse said we could either wait for “it” to happen naturally or they could arrange for a dilation and curettage procedure (D&C).

Driving home, through my tears, all I could think was I didn’t feel different. I know they had said I had a miscarriage and they were the experts, but how could that be?

That week was full of grief, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake still feeling pregnant. When more blood tests came back with increasing hormone levels, I questioned the nurses, but they said, “Sometimes that happens.” I must have seemed like a complete lunatic; I questioned the nurses at every turn, and my best friend, family, and husband (while amazing and supportive) were all starting to wonder if I was completely losing the plot.

I just couldn’t believe the diagnosis; either I was in denial or going crazy. I swung between grief and disbelief.

In the insanity of that week, I was referred to the miscarriage clinic at our public hospital. I had asked for another scan, but the specialist was resolute and we were now in the “public” system. I’ll never forget reading the words on his referral letter requesting an “immediate evacuation of the uterus” because I wasn’t “coping.”

There I was at the clinic being given the same options: wait it out or schedule a D&C. But I needed them to check. I needed to know I was doing the right thing, so I asked for a scan. Reluctantly and with a “well, if that’s what you need to feel comfortable, we can arrange that,” the clinic doctor agreed.

I headed back to the public hospital the next day for the ultrasound. I remember saying, “I think we’re probably just confirming the inevitable but I need to check,” as I handed over the referral documents.

She started scanning. A couple of minutes later she stopped, cocked her head a little, leaned into the screen, scanned more, looked closer, and then turned to me and said: “I don’t know what he was looking at, but what I see here is a perfectly viable baby with a good heartbeat. And it appears to be measuring ahead of expected.”

I felt my heart drop. WHAT? She reread my notes and asked if I would wait for a moment while she went to get her boss. While she was out of the room, I rang my husband. I could hear his jaw hit the floor. No sooner had I hung up than the head of the department came in. They scanned again and got the same result. At that point I’m not sure who looked more shocked or happier, them or me. “Well, I don’t know how this happened, but you are definitely pregnant. We’ll be sending the doctor a report, but would you like to ring and tell him, or would you like us to?”

Calling the fertility clinic that afternoon was awesome, and yes they were as shocked as everyone else. It was nice for me to know that after being treated like I was crazy, I was actually right.

I met again with the doctor who had misdiagnosed my miscarriage, and he asked if he could do a scan too so that he could see, but of course I said no. I didn’t trust him anymore. He apologized and said he wasn’t sure how it happened. He suggested maybe there were two and he just hadn’t seen the other one. I really didn’t want to hear his excuses. He had made a terrible, terrible mistake, one that would have killed my child if I had gone along as he recommended and had that D&C.

What I found out through this process is that when you are diagnosed with a miscarriage and booked for a D&C, no further scanning is done before the operation. They simply take the report as correct and proceed. If I hadn’t insisted on another scan, my beautiful little girl wouldn’t be here. Sure, I’d be none the wiser, but knowing what happened and how close we were to losing her is something I can never forget or forgive.

I’d love to say that the pregnancy was problem free, and medically it was, but having already “lost” her once made it an emotional horror story. I was completely paranoid every single day. From renting a fetal doppler to employing an expensive obstetrician and insisting on regular scans, I just couldn’t relax and enjoy it. I’m probably one of the only mothers who has been relieved to have a breech baby and an early C-section, but honestly I just wanted to have her out alive. I couldn’t stand the thought that something might still go wrong.

I guess this is what it’s like for most women who are pregnant after loss; pregnant with rainbow babies. The only difference is that mine was essentially a rainbow baby to herself.

I know that most of the time a miscarriage is just that and my situation is rare, but if you find yourself in this terrible, heartbreaking situation, don’t rush into a decision. Please always get a second opinion, and trust yourself.