When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and
his wife were finally pregnant, he said they'd experienced three previous miscarriages.
"You feel so hopeful when you learn you're going to have a child. You start
imagining who they'll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start
making plans, and then they're gone. It's a lonely experience."
But what exactly is that experience like? While I'm
grateful to Zuckerberg and other public figures for being so open about their
pain (usually in the past, after they're pregnant) few people have any
understanding about pregnancy loss—until it happens to them.
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month, so I
am going to explore different facets of miscarriage, from the types there are,
to what to do, how to talk about it and how to recover and move on.
A miscarriage is a loss of a pregnancy before the 20th
week of pregnancy. Some 10-20% of clinical pregnancies will miscarry—although
more than half will have been chemical pregnancies, i.e., a loss shortly after
A week after my wedding, I realized I hadn't gotten my
period in a while. I'd just gotten off birth control, though, so I wasn't too
worried. Still, I took a pregnancy test. Then another. And another. (This was
before I started buying them in bulk.) I made an appointment with the OB-GYN for the following week. The morning of the appointment, though, I bled lightly in the toilet. The
pregnancy was short-lived.
Often, women don't even realize they've conceived, and what
seems like a late period is really an early loss.
That's why I was in complete shock to hear at our nine-week appointment, "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat."
A Missed Miscarriage
After waiting one cycle as advised—in which we took our
honeymoon—I got pregnant. This time, though, I was on the
lookout for bleeding. I checked trepidatiously each time I went to pee, but… nothing! This time I made it to the doctor, and we even got to see the
baby's heartbeat at seven weeks. That's why I was in complete shock to hear at
our nine-week appointment, "I'm sorry, there's no heartbeat."
"But there was no blood!" I cried.
Turns out it was what was called a "missed miscarriage,"
where the fetus' heart has stopped beating but you don't know it. In fact, some
women can carry a pregnancy for weeks and only at the doctor's appointment find
out the fetus had stopped growing
I thought I knew everything about miscarriage. So after a
few weeks of really good blood tests showing rising pregnancy hormones,
indicating a health pregnancy, I was expecting to see the fetus' heartbeat at
the doctor. But when he said, "It's a blighted ovum." I didn't understand. He
showed me on the ultrasound: there was a gestational sac, but no fetus inside.
The embryo had implanted, but never grew.
There are other types of pregnancies that do not continue, including
an incomplete or inevitable miscarriage where your cervix is dilated
and/or you start to lose the pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy where the
embryo has implanted outside the uterus and a molar pregnancy which is when
there's growth of an abnormal tissue in the uterus due to a genetic error
The fact is no matter what "type" of miscarriage you experience, they're all pretty devastating. But I still wish I had known about the signs and symptoms, because it might have made things just a bit easier—which is what I hope this post does for someone else.