• Wed, Dec 12 2012

Doctors May Be Diagnosing Miscarriage Too Soon – Let The Torture Of ‘What Ifs’ Begin

miscarriageIn news that will shock, terrify, and infuriate women everywhere, some doctors are suggesting that pregnant women are being diagnosed with – and treated for – miscarriage too soon, before it is even medically certain whether the fetus is viable. The Daily Mail reports that in the UK, as many as 400 women a year may be losing healthy babies due to misdiagnosed miscarriage, and they have medical professionals to back them up.

Glasgow University’s Mary Ann Lumsden wrote guidelines for Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that include waiting until 13 weeks before removing a fetus, even if miscarriage is expected. The professor explains, “Women are told that the pregnancy is unviable at a very early stage.” As advanced as modern medicine is, it can still be extremely difficult to detect a heartbeat or measure the right amount of hormones.

As a woman who has suffered more than one miscarriage, hearing news like this is almost perverse. It makes that pregnancy that you hoped for and wanted so dearly only to lose seem that much more emotional. It provides false hope and someone else to be mad at. It inspires a hundred torturous “What ifs.”

The problem has only been reported in the UK, but I have to admit that I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that the American medical system suffered from the same problem. I have been on the receiving end of a nurse saying, “Well then we’ll just give you a dose of hormones so that you can get back to trying…” It was said over the phone, as if it were no big deal at all.

In fact, the second part of Lumsden’s guidelines address this very problem. She doesn’t just suggest waiting and giving nature a little time before deciding a fetus is lost, she also instructs medical professionals to be a little more compassionate to the women whose dreams they’re crushing. Lumsden explained:

“It actually does not cost a great deal to be sympathetic and we try and get across that it is something that happens to a lot of women, but for each woman it is a unique event even if it happens more than once. We must recognise people’s distress. We do recommend that staff are trained in dealing sensitively with giving information and that they get trained repeatedly.”

Speaking from experience, a small amount of patience and sympathy go a long way in helping a woman get through such a horrible ordeal. No matter how common miscarriage is, it impacts every woman differently. They all deserve to be treated with kindness and caring.

The thought that a diagnosed miscarriage might have been a viable pregnancy will haunt me, as I’m sure it will haunt other women who suffered that loss. Maybe this revelation is just a sign that women should listen to their own bodies, trust their own instincts, and try to build a relationship with a doctor you can trust.

(Photo: dotshock/Shutterstock)

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  • chickadee

    I’m not sure that you can make such a close comparison between British and American medical procedures in this situation, since it would seem that the UK physicians use ultrasound more frequently and earlier than they do here in the US. I am assuming that’s because the NHS pays for the scans, whereas here they must be approved by the insurance companies. According to the article, it also sounds like they perform more routine D&Cs than they do in the US. When I miscarried, my doctor told me what to expect and said I should come in to make sure that it had completed. A scan was not an automatic step.

    Perhaps the procedure is different for those using assistance to conceive, but I also know that such pregnancies are monitored by checking the HGC levels and the rate at which they are increasing. I don’t think you need to worry that you lost a viable pregnancy through medical mistake.