An expectant mother rallying after the trauma of miscarrying said she “feels forgotten about” after she was told her wife could not support her through the birth of their first child.
Chairis Grant-Hickey, a 38-year-old education officer, lost her first child conceived through fertility treatment, and has struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and panic attacks since.
PTSD and pregnancy
The woman, who lives in South East London, experienced a miscarriage in October 2019. She fell pregnant for the second time in January.
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“I had a missed miscarriage, meaning that I lost my first child at six weeks, but we didn’t find out until the nine week scan,” she said. “After the miscarriage I didn’t expect this level of anxiety. Every time I walk into a hospital, the memories of what happened just came flooding back,” she said. “I’ve still struggled with panic attacks during the scans and the other procedures.”
‘I know I can do it, but I shouldn’t have to’
Under current NHS rules, women cannot be joined by their partner unless their labour is “established,” when a woman’s cervix is fully dilated and she experiences regular and painful contractions. This has also been the case during other appointments. The expectant mother struggles with vaginal exams since her miscarriage, but she has not been allowed to have her wife attend the screenings for support.
“Even though my wife is supporting me standing by my side, she feels helpless,” the expectant mother said. “Even though we can text when I’m inside the hospital, I’m not allowed to FaceTime or video when I’m alone in the scan. I can’t imagine giving birth without my wife by my side. I know I can do it, but I shouldn’t have to.”
“I’ve not seen a midwife’s face during my pregnancy. All of my appointments have been phone calls, no video, which hasn’t put my mind at ease when I’ve had worries about the baby. My mother-in-law dislocated her shoulder and she had video appointments with a physiotherapist, so I don’t see why it can’t happen for pregnant women,” she added.
Mrs Grant-Hickey has not been offered any mental health support during the pregnancy. She has lost 90 per cent of her usual earnings over the pandemic, earning the majority of her income over the March to July period. She has an autoimmune thyroid condition, which affects her fertility and puts her at increased risk of contracting coronavirus.
“I wasn’t offered therapy, so I’ve paid for a private counsellor,” she said. “It has been a tough decision as my earnings have been hard hit. But that’s not an option for everyone.”
Mrs Grant-Hickey said this will be hers and her wife’s first and only child. “Under our NHS Trust, you qualify for a free round of fertility treatment as a same-sex couple after you have failed to conceive three times. A miscarriage counts as a success,” she said. “It costs £1500 alone for sperm in fertility treatment, and it can cost up to £10,000 for a round of IVF. It cost us £3000 for one round of IUI treatment, which was considered a bargain,” she added.
She said there needs to be an “urgent review” of birthing restrictions amid the outbreak. “Pregnant nurses are working in a hospital, but their partner can’t come in for their appointments, it’s just crazy. Being pregnant in a pandemic is shit, you can’t say there’s nothing to worry about, because there is,” she added.
NHS England said it has supplied a framework to assist NHS trusts to reintroduce access for partners, visitors and other supporters of pregnant women in English maternity services.
“Now that the peak of the first wave has passed, and in agreement with RCM and RCOG, and the Society and College of Radiographers, NHS guidance was issued on 8 September so that partners and visitors can attend maternity units,” a letter addressing the framework said.
“This builds on the determined effort throughout the pandemic to ensure partners were able to be present during labour. We thank you and are grateful the majority of services have quickly implemented this guidance and relaxed visiting restrictions. To those that are still working through the guidance, this must happen now so that partners are able to attend maternity units for appointments and births.”
The Miscarriage Association is a charity that offers support to people who have lost a baby. They have a helpline (01924 200 799, Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm) and an email address ([email protected]), and can put you in touch with a support volunteer.