When I started OutOfHours blog I wanted to share my story of recurrent miscarriage and also help others in a similar situation if I could. So, with this in mind I have decided to write a series of blog posts about a few of the things that I did to help me deal with my miscarriages and how they may also help anyone going through recurrent pregnancy loss.
Please note – this blog post is based on my opinion and personal experience.
We have all heard of the well-known proverb ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ haven’t we? Well I believe counselling is loosely based upon this principle. Counselling is ‘a talking therapy that involves a trained therapist listening to you and helping you to find ways to deal with emotional issues’ . Counselling has many applications and is widely used to help in the management of depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, bereavement and conditions that have resulted in psychological and emotional distress.
My story begins after I had just had surgical management for my third miscarriage. On discharge from hospital I was given the number for a specialist early pregnancy midwife-counsellor and had open access to her services if I felt that I needed support. ‘I’m absolutely gutted, but I’ll be fine’, I thought. A few days later, I clearly wasn’t okay and was struck with grief. After some gentle encouragement from my husband I contacted the counsellor and my word, she was an absolute godsend!
I saw her regularly following my third miscarriage and through my fourth pregnancy (and subsequent miscarriage). Her support was invaluable. I talked and she listened (asking some probing questions from time-to-time)… And that was it! By talking about my losses the load felt a little lighter. The problem maybe wasn’t quite halved, but I felt at least 15% better ( 😉 ). She supported me through my anxieties of early pregnancy, let me cry, let me be angry, didn’t run away in shock at some of my comments and allowed me to say anything I wanted to get off my chest. She was sympathetic, well-informed and understanding. She used the correct terminology and used it sensitively.
I had never experienced any counselling before, but had previously referred numerous patients for it without real in-depth knowledge of how it could work, and how it does help. Now, after my personal experience, I would (and have) recommend it to everyone with that added knowledge that I too have been there and felt the benefit.
Can anyone access counselling following miscarriage?
There were new National Bereavement Care Pathways published last year (rolled out during Baby Loss Awareness Week 2018, see my blog post here) specifically for pregnancy and baby loss. The pathways included guidelines for different types of loss, with specific recommendations to help organisations to try to ensure they are providing high quality clinical care. In the pathway for Miscarriage, Ectopic Pregnancy and Molar Pregnancy there is clear recommendation for all bereaved parents to be ‘informed about and, if requested, referred for emotional support and for specialist mental health support when needed'. The guideline then states that Trusts should ‘provide information about the emotional support available via [the] Trust, primary care colleagues and via local and national support organisations’ which may result in varied levels of post baby loss support depending on the resources and skill-set available locally.
In England the NHS rolled out The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in 2008 and this has transformed treatment of adult anxiety disorders and depression. Over 900,000 people now access IAPT services each year, and the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is committed to expanding services further, alongside improving quality. Although not specific to miscarriage and baby loss, using IAPT may be a suitable option for a person to access counselling if the Early Pregnancy Clinic is unable. The services are usually accessed by self-referral which can speed up the process. I would encourage anyone interested in accessing this help to speak to their GP for specific and relevant information locally.
Another source of support may come from the Miscarriage Association. They are a fantastic organisation who offer support and information for individuals affected
by pregnancy loss and for health care professionals. I certainly recall receiving written information that had been published by the Miscarriage Association and found their literature a good way to reinforce the information I had been told verbally. They are advocates for improving care for women who have suffered miscarriage and are involved in raising awareness and research.
There also are many other organisations that aim to support families through baby loss (read previous blog post here) and it is well worth checking them out to see if they can assist with your personal loss.
Finally, there is ALWAYS your GP who can listen and help you to access the right kind of support.
I am aware of how lucky I was to have free access my highly (and specifically) trained counsellor and I am learning that this is a role that does not exist everywhere. It really should however… The way the service was set up meant that I could self refer, which was efficient and meant that I could avoid third-party bureaucracy at the time of my deepest grief.
Perhaps this is something that I/we as an online community could try to campaign for? I am interested to know personal experiences… Do you have access to a specific counsellor trained at helping families through miscarriage and baby loss? Please email me or let me know in the comments below!
Big love! Xx
nhs.uk. (2019). Counselling. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/counselling/ [Accessed Jan. 2019]
nbcpathway.org.uk. (2019). National Bereavement Care Pathway. [online] Available at: http://www.nbcpathway.org.uk/ [Accessed Jan. 2019].
NHS England » Adult Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme. [online] England.nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/mental-health/adults/iapt/ [Accessed Jan. 2019].