I was told at 10 weeks that my baby had no heartbeat and had stopped growing at 8 weeks. It was just a routine dating ultrasound. I’d had no bleeding, no cramping, and no indication that anything was wrong. I suffered from a missed miscarriage. As a mother of three healthy boys with no previous history of miscarriage, this was a new experience for me and one I found would have been far easier on me had I known what to expect. I’ve chosen to share my story from start to finish in a series of short articles so that other women who face what our family did are more prepared. You’ll find my story enhanced with research as well as information gleaned from talking to other women who have had miscarriages and healthcare professionals I met through the process to help answer questions you may find yourself asking.
Article one will deal with whether or not missed miscarriages or miscarriages in general can be misdiagnosed, whether or not you should get a second opinion, and if so, when.
When I was first told I’d had a missed miscarriage, the doctor was very brusque. The ultrasound was very short and my options were shorter. I could have a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) or wait it out naturally. I didn’t believe him. I left that office 100 percent sure he was an incompetent hack. I spent the next week reading stories of people that were told they’d had a missed miscarriage and had everything turn out OK. One minute I was sure my baby was fine, the next I was in tears because I knew she/he wasn’t. It was the longest week of my life.
Is it possible for a miscarriage or missed miscarriage misdiagnosis to happen?
Yes, based on forum responses from women on misdiagnosedmiscarriage.com and personal interviews with women who preferred to remain anonymous, misdiagnosed miscarriages are most common in early pregnancy.
Your chances of a missed miscarriage misdiagnosis may be higher if:
-You are 6 weeks pregnant or less. The further along you are after the 6 week point, the lower the chance of miscarriage misdiagnosis.
-Your ultrasound was not done vaginally. Vaginal ultrasounds are far more accurate in early pregnancy.
-A fetal pole was not seen. This may indicate your due dates are off or you may have a tilted uterus. It appeared to be more common for no fetal pole to be seen and a baby to be found later, than a baby with no heartbeat to later have one.
If a baby is seen measuring 8 weeks or larger with no heartbeat, the chances are quite slim that you had a misdiagnosed miscarriage. If you’re looking for hope, I know that’s not what you want to hear, but I found false hope made my week of waiting far longer. In my case, I was wrong, my doctor was right, and I did have a missed miscarriage, but I’m still glad I got a second opinion. Most of the women I spoke to felt better about things if they got a second opinion or wished they had if they didn’t. It offers that certainty that keeps you from wondering if you’re doing the right thing if you opt for a D&C or struggling with the idea your baby may be alive if you decide to wait it out for a natural loss.
How long should I wait before I get a second opinion about a missed miscarriage?
I know your first instinct is to run straight to another doctor, clinic or the ER to get a second opinion right now, but the general guideline is to wait one week. Why? If in one week the baby has not grown at all, there is no doubt that your baby is indeed gone and you’ve had a missed miscarriage. If you get a second opinion right away, yes you’re getting a new machine and new person reading that machine, but if your due date is incorrect or your baby is developing slowly due to other circumstances, it’s possible you’ll still get a misdiagnosis. Many women who get ultrasounds around 6 weeks find no heartbeat and later find one. Your baby’s heart begins to beat around 6 weeks. If your due date is even a few days off, you could be misdiagnosed with a missed miscarriage.
What about HCG blood levels to catch a missed miscarriage misdiagnosis?
I declined HCG blood testing for the most part. I didn’t want one more thing to stress over. Why? HCG is supposed to double every 48 hours in early pregnancy before peaking around 10 weeks and then beginning to decline. Note the word, “supposed.” It is not uncommon for women to have non-doubling HCG levels and have perfectly healthy pregnancies. If your due date is off, your levels could already be dropping. If your baby passed recently, your levels may not have begun to drop off and could remain high for weeks. There are so many things that make HCG levels irrelevant; it’s really just information that’s going to make you worry more. What you do need to know is that your levels return to zero if you do indeed miscarry, meaning a blood test after your loss, if it happens, is recommended.
Article two covers handling the grief of a miscarriage. I hope that this article helps those who are facing a possible missed miscarriage and a sincerely hope you have no need to read article two.
You may also find useful:
3 Ways You Can Be Pregnant and Still Have a Period