Yesterday my partner and I took a step I never thought we’d need to take. Feeling rather nervous (and hot – it was a hot day!) we took a long drive to Maidenhead from Oxfordshire through the rush hour traffic on a beautiful June day to talk about the 3 miscarriages we have had in the past 6 months.
After trying for 11 months I can now get pregnant with apparent ease. But I can’t keep them. And I want answers.
The charity Tommy’s reports that 1 in 100 women in the UK suffered from recurrent miscarriage. This is termed as women who have had three or more consecutive miscarriages. Which is us.
The causes can be many or none. The results are heart breaking. The only reason we went private for this appointment is that I was worried we’d miscarry again before we saw anyone on the NHS (the waiting list was 3 months long). Luckily I’m covered through work but I have a brief understanding of the frustration felt by other women who do not have this luxury.
We are ushered into a very smart office (Maidenhead was the closest office that Bupa offered) nestled inside a beautiful old house next to the river in the section poshly named ‘The Coach House’. It’s a world away from the John Radcliffe hospital. Here we met the lovely Dr K (sorry, Mr K I should say but Dr from now on to avoid confusion).
I want to say first off that I love Dr K. ‘Crazy Research Woman’ (me) turned up with so many medical papers and questions that I talked over him a lot of the time whenever he paused like some sort of Miss Bates parody (‘napkin mother!’), and he merely smiled politely, nodded and was so nice and understanding. No patronising or dismissive comments about my age or situation, no ‘mansplaining’ of how horrible miscarriage is. Just a professional ‘I want to help you’ attitude which warmed the soul and soothed my anxiety somewhat. Even the hubster liked him.
To go through the process for anyone who hasn’t done this or will be doing this, Dr K took all of my medical history into account. I had gone with all of my apps for when miscarriages occurred and what dates they were and had also obtained copies of all blood tests done over the last year as well as all scans.
It was a bewildering amount of paperwork spread out over the desk, but he went through it all slowly and methodically creating a profile for me. After asking a few questions he had decided that the issue we have is that actual implantation process. We can see from scans that I have a nice thick lining but for whatever reason, the fetus just can’t seem to implant itself there so we never get past a certain number of weeks.
The reasons for this could be my thyroid levels (at 3.04 I’m over the specified recommended level of 2.5), a sticky blood disorder such as Thrombophilia or Lupus anti coagulants, he wants my hormones re-looked at and he’s not entirely sure I don’t have polycystic ovaries. This is for starters. All of these can be treated up to a point.
Next comes the karyotyping (costing privately around £300 for each of us) which will look to see if my husband and I have anything strange going on with our genetics or chromosomes which might be affecting our ability to have a baby. This includes genes like the infamous MTHFR gene among others.
Lastly comes the NKC (Natural Killer Cells) test, the hot topic of the medical profession (apparently).
NKCs in the uterus serve the same purpose as those in the body by attacking anything it considers as ‘foreign’ (cancer, infection, a growing baby….) and like all good intentions, it’s a well meant strategy in a misplaced situation. The test will involve taking a biopsy of my lining which is then sent to Canada towards the end of my cycle (so one month of TTC gone) to be tested for evidence of these NKC cells in my uterus.
If they find this I will be put steroids which will suppress my immune system, none of which sounds fun considering I work with a subsection of the general public mainly over 50+ and always ill, but hopefully worth it in the end.
If you do want to have your NKCs looked into it’s worth noting that Professor Siobhan Quinby in Warwickshire runs an amazing clinic which looks into NKC’s and uteral stem cell research – link to it here. The test costs about £400 – £500 (at time of publishing). She runs things a little differently – you do have to accept you wipe out 3 months of TTC (you need to have not had a MC or abortion for 2 months before the biopsy and the month of the biopsy is obviously also excluded) however she measures the amount of NKS as opposed to evidence of them and so can approve dosage accordingly.
It’s worth noting that NKCs is a very new discovery and is in its infancy when it comes to treatment. Stem Cell Absence in the womb lining is also in its research stages but watch this space.
UPDATE: Right well apparently NKCs have been disproven. However steroids may still help a small % of the population.
I also got pregnant again on the cycle before most of these tests could be done. I was given levothyroxine for my thyroid, baby aspirin and progesterone suppositories (then thought to be a waste of time and now actually known to be of use for those who have had two or more miscarriages). I am happy to say I carried my daughter to term.