Early pregnancy loss, or miscarriage, occurs in about 10-25% of pregnancies according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Pregnancy Association. That’s handy to know, but besides this and some other basic information on a few reputable sites, I had a hard time turning those numbers into information that would help me when I learned my pregnancy had ended early. I wanted to hear from women who’d experienced this: How far along were they when they found out? How long did it take them to have the miscarriage? For those who had a D&C, how was the procedure and recovery? There is much on coping with pregnancy loss and miscarriage, but for me coping would involve learning about what I could expect my body to go through.
I did eventually get answers through a local Facebook moms’ chat group, but I would have preferred to not yet have to share what had happened with people I knew in real life. I’ll share briefly here how this sad time played out for me in case someone going through the same things is wondering.
A few months ago we went in for an ultrasound, presumably a couple months into our second pregnancy. (This is after a successful first pregnancy.) While my husband and I can almost chuckle about it now, the ultrasound tech was so obviously awkward that we knew something was up. After measuring in complete silence, she hurriedly told us that she didn’t see a heartbeat and walked out of the room. The few minutes between that and when we saw the doctor were the worst.
The OB laid it out: the baby measured 8 1/2 weeks and did not have a heartbeat. A spontaneous abortion had occurred. At this point we didn’t have to do anything. We could leave and not come back until after my body had expelled the fetal “tissue.” The doctor also explained what a D&C is and said I could schedule one right then. Or, we could come back in a week for another ultrasound. We opted to come back in a week, even though there wasn’t much hope a second ultrasound would show anything different. Unless the tech’s (many) measurements were at least 3 weeks off and the baby was much younger than we thought, a heartbeat should have been visible. At this point I wasn’t considering a D&C.
A week later the ultrasound showed that the baby still didn’t have a heartbeat and had shrunk in size. Since I expected the baby to measure at least 9 1/2 weeks at the first ultrasound, I figured that by this point the baby had been inside me for 2 weeks without a heartbeat. Knowing that was pretty disturbing. I looked around online, and, finding little, finally asked some local moms how long it took them to have the miscarriage after they learned their pregnancies weren’t viable. For most, it all happened before the first ultrasound. For the few that learned then, the miscarriage happened anywhere from a few days to three and a half weeks after. (Three and a half weeks?!) By the second ultrasound my morning sickness had finally dissipated, but I was still urinating frequently, was getting bad headaches (but at least I could take Excedrin again!) and my stomach felt and looked (if only to me) pregnant. The constant reminder that I felt pregnant but wouldn’t be having a baby was wearing on me, emotionally and physically. I scheduled a D&C for a week later.
The procedure was easy. We were in the hospital maybe 4 hours total. We arrived 2 hours before, the D&C lasted 20-30 minutes, and we left about an hour after I woke up. I did heed the doctor’s instructions to take it easy for two days, but exactly 48 hours later I was able to get back into working out. It seems silly to say now, but I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was finally over, and I could begin moving past it.