‘You have such a lovely job’. Not today I don’t. There was a tearful message from one of my women on the office answerphone. Yesterday she had gone for her nuchal scan at a private facility but, instead of learning what the risks were for having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, she was told that her baby did not have a heartbeat. The sonographer, who was also a Doctor, had not given her any advice as to what would/should happen next. He had told her that the baby had not grown after 10 weeks and so there was the possibility that baby had been dead for 2 weeks, and left his input at that. No referral to a local hospital, no suggestion as to who she should contact, what she should look out for. I went to the G.P’s surgery and asked the Doc if he had heard from her, he had but had refused to refer her to the hospital until he had seen her. I know that there are formalities that Doctors like to observe ( sometimes it seems almost masonic) but come on, this woman has a dead baby inside her. Please forget all the secret handshakes and just organise things. In the end I picked up a telephone, explained the situation to a lovely gynaecologist who I have never met and who doesn’t know me from Adam, and was able to tell my poor patient that if she made her way to such-and-such hospital they would take care of her. I then reported back to her G.P, his comment was ‘ Didn’t they want a letter from me?’ I just wanted to shake him, who cares? What should have been everyone’s priority was showing compassion and putting ‘wheels’ in motion to end an awful situation. Instead it seems that professionals were so concerned with their territory that the real problem was never addressed.
Until 18 months ago I was sympathetic toward women who miscarry, but until my daughter had a concealed abortion* at 16 weeks I had not fully appreciated the impact of going for a scan to be told that your baby is dead, and possibly has been for some time.
*’Concealed abortion’. Yes, that’s how we describe it. It is the same as a concealed, missed, delayed miscarriage but we like to make it sound as if the pregnant woman has had a termination and kept quiet about it. It sounds harsh, and it is harsh.