I’m pregnant and I’ve bled through half of it: The horrors of my first trimester

The Independent Lifestyle 1 week ago

There are no words to tell people you’re pregnant in a way that doesn’t sound desperately trite. In the past few weeks I’ve swung between the oblique (“what’s the deal with, er, children at your July 2020 wedding in Bordeaux?!?!”) and the casual (“I’m up the duff”) to the over-reaction (“never going on a nice holiday ever again”) and the obvious (“yeah I know I look fat”).

I haven’t yet posted a picture of my uterus-by-ultrasound on Facebook – too personal – or even posed in my oversized Greggs-imitation "Preggs" T-shirt that I assumed I’d be gasping to post on Instagram. (Don’t worry, I have told my family, friends and bosses before announcing it in a newspaper).

It’s my first time doing this: and I’ve got no idea how to handle it.

The first trimester is the worst for most pregnant women. I didn’t feel “thrilled” – rather absolutely petrified, which doesn’t make for the happiest of responses during weeks four to 13. (The first four were spent in my usual funk of fizz, soft cheese and long-haul travel: the baby was conceived in Namibia and spent its formative few weeks on a nine-day-long bender in New York and Nashville. It was after a whisky tasting in Tennessee that I first figured something might be amiss: why did that Lyft air freshener smell so weird?)

I know it’s not a breeze for anyone, and I’m very lucky to be carrying a so-far healthy pregnancy. I’ve had the additional issue that my first trimester – and entire pregnancy to date – has been complicated by the fact that I’ve bled through the entirety of it. Sometimes it’s been a pale pink smear on the toilet tissue, sometimes large wine-coloured clots (sorry). I had 10 scans before I was 13 weeks, after repeated visits to my local hospital’s Early Pregnancy Unit following bad bleeding episodes, where at eight weeks I was diagnosed with a cervical ectropion

“The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free.”
“No matter what you're going through, there's a light at the end of the tunnel and it may seem hard to get to it but you can do it and just keep working towards it and you'll find the positive side of things.”
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
“Doing something that is productive is a great way to alleviate emotional stress. Get your mind doing something that is productive.”
“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.”
"I am certainly no self-help guru but here is what I know tonight: when you take the time and space you need, kindly and responsibly, you're suddenly available to the people you love in a whole new way."
“If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.”
“One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.”
"I love you. You are beautiful and you can do anything."
"The only thing wrong with me was that I thought there was something wrong with me."
“You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.”
“It is the useless things that make life worth living and that make life dangerous too: wine, love, art, beauty. Without them life is safe, but not worth bothering with.”
“Be able to delegate, because there are some things that you just can’t do by yourself.”
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
"And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
“You Are Never Too Old To Set Another Goal Or To Dream A New Dream.”
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'.”
“Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong.”
“For me, life is about being positive and hopeful, choosing to be joyful, choosing to be encouraging, choosing to be empowering.”
“It's your outlook on life that counts. If you take yourself lightly and don't take yourself too seriously, pretty soon you can find the humor in our everyday lives. And sometimes it can be a lifesaver.”
"Life is very interesting… in the end, some of your greatest pains, become your greatest strengths.”
“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.”
“There are no regrets in life. Just lessons.”
"The reality is: sometimes you lose. And you’re never too good to lose. You’re never too big to lose. You’re never too smart to lose. It happens"

In sanitary terms, that means soft cells are growing on my cervix where hard-wearing ones should be. Ergo, those cells are susceptible to bleeding, especially when you throw in buckets of pregnancy hormones and increased blood flow down there. It’s the type of thing that would ordinarily be picked up by a smear test, but the timings of mine didn’t work out.

In the NHS textbook, “vaginal bleeding” during pregnancy is a Very Very Bad thing and needs to be investigated immediately, even when the case is not at all egregious and doesn’t affect the baby (who seems to be doing fine). Each time they saw me, doctors shrugged and told me “bleeding is just a thing that happens in pregnancy”, and that it would probably settle down into the second trimester. Then they printed out another page of unintelligible measurements to put into this big file of paper pregnant women are expected to carry with them everywhere.

It doesn’t help that the heightened emotions of pregnancy means I find myself unable to assess information like I would in my day-to-day job as a journalist. Ordinarily I’d be adept at filtering different opinions and applying common sense and rationale to find the middle ground. With pregnancy, this just doesn’t apply, as everything feels very urgent.

Every time I bled – so, daily – my brain would gallop to the worst case scenario, usually thanks to a post in a years-old Mumsnet forum. It’s very hard to shrug this off and find perspective if you don’t want to see it. I found myself checking daily miscarriage risk charts obsessively, taking heart in passing each hour, each day, each week. Even when I hit 12 weeks, the doctor told me the risk wasn’t as low as it should have been: women who bleed continue to be higher risk for miscarriage.

One weekend this summer I was in Vilnius in Lithuania with friends, around eight weeks pregnant. The trip should’ve been joyous: I was telling my friends that next year’s trip to another Baltic capital would likely not include me (my baby might’ve cramped my style). Instead, I bled steadily in the shower one morning and the next day assumed I’d miscarried in an airport toilet thanks to the amount of blood. How apt, I thought. Of course a travel editor would have a miscarriage in an airport toilet.

By about 14 weeks, after my 11th scan, we had established that bleeding during pregnancy is not always a Bad Thing. At the tail end of my first trimester, I’d warned that my negative blood type (A-) meant I would need more monitoring than most, given the “recurrent bleeding” (I now had a term for it). A negative blood type is not usually problematic for most women, but throw in a positive blood type baby and pesky cervical erosion means I need twice-monthly blood tests and then jabs of something called Anti-D, to make sure that none of my antigen-less blood mixes with the baby’s healthy blood and cause rhesus disease. 

I’m now 20 weeks, and the bleeding has become as commonplace as my daily caffeine hit – yes, I’m still allowed one – and my increasingly calm mental state has meant I can judge it for what it is: one of the many pregnancy complications that women have to deal with when growing another human being. I’m not the only negative blood type woman growing a positive baby to suffer cervical erosion.

Woman stuffs laptop and charging cable down her jumpsuit to look pregnant in attempt to avoid baggage fee

There has been lightness too. Once those fraught early weeks were over, I could see the blood and constant hospital visits as a minor inconvenience, and so have been teeth-clenchingly open with my friends. Case in point: one poor couple in a Thai cafe in south London heard all about my leaky cervix when they sat next to me and my friend for dinner last month. Sorry. 

Or that time I turned up for my first Anti-D injection at the hospital, at just over 12 weeks pregnant. I started to roll up my sleeves. The nurse eyed me and said: “Ms Adams, we need you to bend over..."


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