'I Was Diagnosed With PTSD After Suffering Seven Miscarriages'
When Sally Thompson discovered she was pregnant for the seventh time, she cried with fear.
It should have been a happy time but, after already suffering the agony of six miscarriages, she couldn't bring herself to feel excitement.
The next day, the 31-year-old experienced light bleeding and just three weeks later, as doctors stared at an 'empty' ultrasound screen, Sally was told her pregnancy was ectopic.
In the midst of her grief, Sally was handed a leaflet and told she could 'try again soon' before being sent home.
Speaking to Tyla, the customer service advisor told how her seventh unviable pregnancy kickstarted a downward spiral which resulted in her developing agoraphobia, before being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sally isn't alone. Last week, new research into the psychological impact of miscarriage found Sally's is a familiar story. The research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, revealed as many as one in three women will suffer from post-traumatic stress after an early pregnancy loss, while nearly a quarter will battle moderate to severe anxiety.
Following the findings, the Imperial Health Charity is calling for urgent changes to be made to the care women receive after a loss.
For Sally, who has been diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) - a disorder of the immune system in which pregnant women can have an increased risk of miscarriage - aftercare is crucial.
In a bid to raise awareness and encourage conversation around the psychological impact of losing a pregnancy, Sally has bravely spoken to Tyla about her ordeal.
"The ectopic pregnancy was really the straw that broke the camel's back and the start of my mental health decline," she said.
"It hit me very hard. I started to bleed the day after getting the positive test but out of sheer fear I did nothing about it for three weeks. I couldn't bring myself to go there and be told again that it wasn't a viable pregnancy.
"Obviously in the end I had to go, I had no other choice. We went for the scan and they asked if I was mistaken with my dates, because they were staring at a blank screen. They later located the pregnancy in a fallopian tube."
Sally explained she was given methotrexate - a chemotherapy drug - which made her very ill.
"The physical aspect was overwhelming. Not only are you battling with the incredible emotional pain, but the anxiety is hanging over you the whole time.
"After having methotrexate, I had to go back and forth to the hospital to check it was working - if it wasn't, I would have needed surgery. Ultimately, there was no moving on and I felt in total limbo," she explained.
View this post on InstagramNew research has found that miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy may trigger long-term post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, calling for immediate improvements in the care women receive after early-stage pregnancy loss. You can read more, including our response in full, here (in bio): https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/2020/01/new-research-finds-that-miscarriage-and-ectopic-pregnancy-may-trigger-long-term-post-traumatic-stress-anxiety-and-depression/ And if you'd like to talk about any of these issues, please do get in touch. We're here to help you through - on our helpline, live chat or over email, as well as offering our Forum and Facebook groups: www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk #miscarriage #miscarriageawareness #miscarriagesupport #ectopicpregnancy #ectopicpregnancysupport #ectopicpregnancyawareness #ptsd #mentalhealth #miscarriageassociation
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Sally and husband Paul, 35, were married six weeks later, but once the distraction of the wedding was out of the way, her mental health deteriorated dramatically.
"I developed agoraphobia to the point where I wasn't leaving the house," she said. "As sad and upset as Paul is, he doesn't physically experience it. Every day, I was pretending to him that I was going to work but in reality I would make the 40-minute drive to the office, before sitting in the car outside and sobbing.
"On hindsight, I had just reached my limit. There's less than one per cent chance of having a recurring miscarriage, less than one per cent chance of having an ectopic pregnancy and less than one per cent chance of having a silent miscarriage. Well, I had had all three.
"I developed an irrational fear that whenever I left the house, bad things would happen. I had an overwhelming fear of death. Paul is a mechanic, he can walk to and from work and he is usually home in a certain time frame. But if he was just minutes late, I would immediately assume a car had fallen on him and he was dead."
After months of suffering in silence, Sally visited her GP where she was diagnosed with PTSD, prescribed medication and advised to take part in talking therapies.
"For me, the talking therapies didn't help," she explained. "However, I managed to find places for support myself and its no exaggeration to say they've been a lifeline.
"At the Liverpool Women's Hospital there's a unit called the Honeysuckle Team. They give support and advice to anyone who has lost a pregnancy at any stage.
"From there I was directed to the White Feather Retreat by the Lighthouses Therapy Services. It's run by qualified therapists - most of whom have been through a similar experience. They work at getting to the root of your anxiety and It quite honestly changed my life."
Following months of support from Honeysuckle, the Lighthouses Therapy Services and the Miscarriage Association, Sally now has 'more good days than bad'. But her trauma is very much still a part of her life and the 31-year-old admits that other women's pregnancies can sometimes trigger her anxiety.
"I'm good at separating it - I can be happy for people and genuinely mean it, but hearing about other people's pregnancies can be difficult," she said.
"One of my good friends had the same due date as me at one point. Obviously she's got her little girl and I lost my pregnancy. I'm so thankful she has and I'd never wish this on anyone, but she's just had her second and I'm still in the same position."
While Sally is feeling more positive, she's adamant that more can be done to help women following a loss.
"Aftercare following a miscarriage is severely lacking. A follow up, as a minimum would have made me feel more supported. The hospital let your GP know everything, so just having them ring you, make an appointment or just check in - something as simple as that would have been so much appreciated.
"After several of my miscarriages I got an 'ah well, you weren't that far along', 'you can try again', 'here's a leaflet' or I was merely given paracetamol.
"Women feel forgotten. They've been through something, something that often they're trying to navigate for the first time and they are being neglected.
"When I had my missed miscarriage at 13 and a half weeks, we knew we were having a baby boy and I had to go in and have the pregnancy removed surgically. Even then there was no follow up. You're in and then you're out.
"Most women I know who have lost a pregnancy don't think of it as a ball of cells, they're immediately making space in their life for a baby that doesn't come. You lose first birthdays, first Christmases, first days of school. That's what you lose."
Sally - who is working with specialists to maintain a pregnancy - is urging women who have suffered a miscarriage or are battling PTSD to talk about their experiences with as many people as possible.
"Miscarriage was the most isolating thing I'd ever been through, but there is support out there and you might have to find it yourself and trawl the internet like I did but you'll find places you feel at home and understood," she said.
"In terms of PTSD, talk to friends, loved ones, family, just talk to somebody because it eats you up. I didn't talk to anyone for months and I wish I had."
If you are looking for support following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, visit the Miscarriage Association.
Featured Image Credit: Sally Thompson