This week marks both Babyloss Week and World Mental Health Day – both subjects close to my heart. I’m so proud that these days raise awareness and open up the conversation on such important topics. Here are the five things I learnt on my journey. I hope that by sharing it, breaking the silence, I can help others who have experienced loss.
1. You are not alone
My first daughter Mia was stillborn at 27 weeks. Before that day I had never even heard of the word stillbirth, or stillborn. Yet it affects 1 in 200 births. The trauma meant that I really struggled to conceive afterwards, it impacted my confidence, my relationship and my emotional health. A year later I found out I was pregnant, only to miscarry at 8 weeks. Again, I didn’t realise how common miscarriage is, it affects 1 in 4 pregnancies. If you have recently experienced a loss, don’t be afraid to speak about it, you will realise that by opening up, more women will share their experience and you won’t feel so alone.
2. Mental health is important
Those first few months after the loss was very difficult. Not only are you struggling with grief but for me, the chatter in my head – “What did I do wrong? Did I exercise too much. Did I eat something wrong? etc.” was constant. I couldn’t help blaming myself. I was feeling hopeless, and my confidence was really low. This affected my relationship and productivity at work.
Research shows that there is a strong link between pregnancy loss and mental health. Four in ten women who have experienced a miscarriage have PTSD symptoms. I struggled to access the right emotional support – and I know I am not alone. At the moment, there is no routine screening or care. However, there is a clear need for support: 90% of women who experienced recurrent miscarriage said they wanted emotional support. When I finally accessed help, it made a huge difference. Remember to take care of both your mind and body.
3. Sharing is empowering
On my journey I realised that talking about pregnancy complications is still really taboo. There is in fact no word in the English language for a parent whose child has died, as if the subject were too painful for society to confront.
Yet I found sharing my difficulties really empowering. I met some incredible people who had also experienced loss, and we provided each other with much needed support. Looking back I am grateful for everything I went through, the good and the bad, because it has shaped who I am and given me strength.
4. We need to take a proactive approach
During that time, a friend of mine who had experienced recurrent miscarriages recommended I speak to her doctor. I booked an appointment and went to see him – that’s when my life started to change. He told me that obstetrics was a reactive practice. That the health of a pregnancy starts before you even try to conceive. He also placed a strong emphasis on my emotional wellbeing and said it was important we build up my confidence.
He took a very proactive approach to understanding my health and that of my partner. He made us take a lot of different tests and it was through these tests that I found out that I had a condition which likely caused the loss. I couldn’t help but feel that I could have prevented all of this from happening if I had known about this before conceiving. He then asked us to work on our preconception health for 2-3 months before trying. I’m now very grateful to have two young girls that keep me busy.
5. Change is needed
This experience really made me think – how can we empower women to know their bodies better? How can we put health data back in women’s hands so they can make more informed choices? How can we take a more proactive approach to women’s reproductive health so we can avoid issues before it’s too late? How can we provide women with the emotional support they need?
I realised change is needed and I was inspired to start Adia. If I can help others have an easier journey to start a family, somehow be part of them not suffering in shame or isolation, it will bring meaning to my own journey. And it would fulfill Mia’s life purpose. However short her life was, it had a meaning.