Recently, after our second miscarriage, we were referred to a pregnancy loss clinic at a nearby hospital. Pregnancy Loss Clinics are staring to pop up all across the U.S. and serve the purpose of helping couples who have gone through multiple pregnancy losses. Typically the clinics are run by high-risk maternal fetal medicine doctors and a team of people to help couples cope with their grief, get answers as to why they keep miscarrying, and hopefully help them reach their dreams of a healthy pregnancy.
Here is the story of our visit to a Pregnancy Loss Clinic…the raw, honest truth.
What Is A Pregnancy Loss Clinic & What Do They Do?
My husband and I were referred to a pregnancy loss clinic after our second miscarriage by our OB/GYN. Apparently, the health system that I work for as a nurse also has the only pregnancy loss clinic in the state of Michigan at this point in time. I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity for this follow up visit that we hoped would offer some clarity on our loss and how to avoid another miscarriage.
This pregnancy loss clinic is run by a high-risk maternal fetal medicine doctor, and a team of nurses, social workers, and nutritionist. They create a thorough plan and approach to helping couples heal after a pregnancy loss, and potentially find a cause in hopes of preventing another loss.
We made our appointment, and filled out pages of questions regarding our health histories, our family history, and what happened during our losses. We brought the plethora of forms with us to our appointment for the doctor and nurse to go over with us.
The Criteria For Making An Appointment At A Pregnancy Loss Clinic
From what I understand, you need to have had 2 or more miscarriages/pregnancy losses before getting referred to a pregnancy loss clinic. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and typically after one loss, most women will go on to have healthy pregnancies.
However, there is a small percentage of women that continue to miscarry. With each loss, the odds of having a healthy pregnancy dwindle. Not to mention, after a couple or several losses, a couple’s anxiety increases along with stress and fear.
Now, for those of us that are in the small percentage of couples that lose multiple pregnancies, we have hope and a way to find some answers. I’m hopeful that more pregnancy loss clinics become available across the United States to help other couples cope with their grief and build their families.
Where To Find A Pregnancy Loss Clinic
If you are looking or a pregnancy loss clinic, simply google “pregnancy loss clinic” in your area to see what pops up. Or, you can ask your OB/GYN if they know of one in your area, or if you can get a referral to a maternal fetal medicine doctor for further testing. I’ll explain what testing our doctor did, so if there’s not one in your area perhaps your OB/GYN could order similar testing to get you some answers as to why you’re losing pregnancies also.
What To Expect At Your First Appointment
Our first appointment lasted 3 hours! 3 HOURS!! (Yep, you read that right.). I don’t think I’ve ever had a doctor’s appointment last so long.
First, we met with the nurse who reviewed our paperwork and asked us some lifestyle questions. She asked us exactly what happened during our losses, down to the nitty gritty details. Also, she asked if we knew of any genetic abnormalities on either side of our family, checked my vitals, and did a quick exam.
Next, a nutritionist came in the room. We were already emotional from answering all of the nurses questions and reliving our miscarriages, which made me even more reluctant to talk about my current diet. You see, at the beginning of 2019, I started the keto diet. I wasn’t perfect at it, and really only lasted about 3 months. But, I’m pretty sure that a low-carb lifestyle is what eventually helped me get pregnant in June.
When I got pregnant, I was nauseous and didn’t feel well, so I ate whatever sounded good to me. So, in other words, no more keto. Then, after the loss, I plunged right back into my emotional eating habits and the folks at our local McDonald’s greeted me by name. Ugh.
So, we got a talking to about how we could change our eating habits for the better…nothing I haven’t heard before. So easy to say to do those things than actual follow through with them. You know what I mean? I understood that nutrition plays a huge role in a successful pregnancy, but at the time wanted to continue to drown my sorrows in Big Macs and Coke. But, at the same time, I felt like a big huge (literally) failure at not sticking to my eating plan. I felt like I’d thrown all of that progress out the window, and it made be angry.
So, as you can imagine, by the time the doctor came in the room we were pretty spent. But, I thought, now we’re getting to the good stuff. Now, the doctor can explain to us why this keeps happening and how we can avoid it next time, right?
Once again we rehashed our losses, down to the most minute detail…things I’d actually blocked from my memory. She took us all the way back to my first OB/GYN that initially put me on Clomid when we’d only been married for a couple of years. She wanted to know what testing we’d had done, what doctors we’d seen, what dosages of various drugs I was on, etc.
It was exhausting.
Basically, we learned that there’s nothing we can do to prevent a miscarriage. We may continue to keep having them, or we may finally have healthy pregnancies that end in us holding our newborn…nobody knows, but God. She told told us there wasn’t some kind of fairy dust she could sprinkle over us to stop these horrific things from happening. We needed to decide how strong we wanted to be. How much did we really want a family? After all, there are other women that go through several losses before finally holding their baby in their arms.
This is almost devastating news. My science-nurse brain understood what she was saying, but my mama heart ached. I just wanted a quick answer. A quick solution to fix this mess so we could get on with having our family. Was that too much to ask?
The doctor did recommend further testing to see if there was some genetic abnormality or anatomical issue that could be causing the loss. So, I had 16 or 17 (not joking) vials of blood drawn. She testing everything in me. We did the genetic testing. She tested me for Cushing’s Disease, Lupus, a bounty of thyroid issues, abnormal clotting factors, homocysteine levels, vitamin levels, and autoimmune responses.
It took several weeks, but the lab work came back and everything was NORMAL! Praise God! I didn’t realize how stressed I was about this testing until I could finally breathe a sigh of relief seeing the results. Then, I rolled into a ball of mush (literally) on our couch and just cried. I was thankful there wasn’t anything “wrong” with me, however that probably mean that both of babies had genetic abnormalities that were incompatible with life.
I wasn’t ready to accept that fact, even though as my doctor explained, miscarriage is nature’s way of weeding out babies that won’t make it in the outside world. Those were tough words to hear, and a tough pill to swallow. I understood what she meant, but I didn’t want to think that there could be anything wrong with our babies. In my mind, they were perfect little angels…and, honestly, now they are. They’re running on streets of gold, listening to lullabies sung by angels and keeping our loved ones we’ve lost on their toes, I’m sure.
Our doctor also suggest other testing that we’d already had done prior to the appointment when were at a fertility clinic a few years ago. She suggested a sperm sample for him, and a hysteroscopy for me where they could see the anatomy of my uterus. We’d both done these tests before and weren’t sure if insurance would cover them again so soon, so we opted out of them.
The Social Worker
We didn’t actually see the social worker that day since our appointment had already lasted 3 hours. But, I could quickly see why they saved her for last. By the time the appointment was over, I was a hot mess. I was scared thinking about all of the lab work and testing. What would happen if something came back genetically? What if I did have some other diagnoses that’s been missed my whole life?
The social worker in this setting, helps walk couples through their grief and helps them with resources for paying for treatments and such. I can totally see why they’d be a valuable member of the team at the pregnancy loss clinic.
I Was All Sorts Of Emotions…How To Deal With The Grief Of A Pregnancy Loss
After the appointment, I wasn’t in a funk. I cried the entire way home. I think reliving each loss and recalling all that we’d been through to try and start our family finally hit me. I’d been doing so well, I thought, with coping with my grief after our second miscarriage, but this day everything hit me like a ton of bricks.
That’s one of the interesting things about grief. You never know when it will hit you. And, when it comes to pregnancy loss, the grief never really goes away. I know for myself, I may think I’m fine but then see an announcement of Facebook or a cute baby at Target and totally go into a tailspin emotionally. I’ve learned to accept those days for what they are, live in that grief for a moment and then pick myself up and go on.
But, the grief and fear I felt after our visit to the pregnancy loss clinic was different than I’d felt before. I was finally coming to the realization that the road through infertility and healing after a loss is a long one. I hadn’t won some badge of honor going through 2 miscarriages. This didn’t get me a “get out of jail for free” card and a fast pass to motherhood. This was still going to take some work and dedication. At that moment, though, I wasn’t sure I could keep going down this uncertain path. I felt as though all the hope that came with that second pregnancy had been sucked out of me. I was left with nothing.
I know, I know. I’m probably really selling you on this whole concept of a pregnancy loss clinic, aren’t I? I don’t mean to sound depressing, but I’m simply sharing the truth. Infertility and Pregnancy Loss is real and raw awful. But, here’s why I think our visit to the pregnancy loss clinic will be a good thing in the future…
The Plan Going Forward Following Our 2nd Miscarriage
Adam asked me in the car while I sobbed like a crazy person what I was expecting to get out of our appointment. I said, “well, I guess I wanted closer pregnancy monitoring, the testing to be done, and prevention methods…and I guess we got all that”. When I though about it that way, I realized we had made progress that day even though we didn’t see some bright shining light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
So, the plan going forward is this and I’m assuming it would be like this at any pregnancy loss clinic. If (I mean, when) we get pregnancy again, I will call the clinic’s office as well as my OB/GYN. The clinic will do close monitoring that includes lab work and ultrasounds early on to make sure the pregnancy is progressing. The doctor told me she’d have me take progesterone for several weeks at the beginning of my pregnancy, which was something that I was hoping for.
If we do have another loss, they will collect the “tissue” (i.e. our baby) and send it off to a lab to be testing for genetic abnormalities. Per the doctor, this is when you want there to be something “wrong” with the baby. Otherwise, we’ll have to start figuring our why my body is getting rid of a normal, healthy pregnancy. See what I mean by this could be a long, long road.
What I Liked & What I Didn’t Like At The Pregnancy Loss Clinic
What I like about the pregnancy loss clinic was just simply that there was a place and group of health professionals acknowledging this problem and giving it the attention it deserves. It made me feel less alone knowing that there were other couples there going through similar sorrow, and also searching for hope.
I liked that the doctor left no stone unturned in testing us for abnormalities so we could rule out some scary things and get some answers before our next pregnancy.
On the other hand, going to a pregnancy loss clinic was extremely emotional for me. In the days leading up to the appointment, I couldn’t wait for it. I was excited. I’d shared the appointment with friends and family who were all anxiously waiting to hear how it went.
Then, afterwards, I felt so defeated…like the reality of our situation had finally hit me. So, if you too having gone through pregnancy loss and are seeking answers like we were, just be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster it may cause. Is it still worth it go? Yes. Would I change a thing? No. It is what it is. And at least now, we’re on the road to finding answers and having our baby.
If you too have gone through a loss, I am so sorry. We know firsthand our devastating it can be. You are not alone. If you have any further questions about loss, grief, or our visit to the pregnancy loss clinic, please feel free to ask. And, of course, I’ll update with what happens at the clinic after pregnancy when that day comes…fingers and toes crossed!