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Caught between despair and hope: misdiagnosed miscarriage

Lost and then found again. Caught in despair, yet daring to hope. A case of a most welcome misdiagnosis. Is she pregnant or is she not?

Erika Kain shared her experience about her misdiagnosed miscarriage at poked and prodded. Hers is an incredible and unusual story.

So many terms are bandied around in connection with miscarriage, such as spontaneous abortion, missed abortion, incomplete abortion, chemical pregnancy, and anembryonic pregnancy that it makes one dizzy.

Simply speaking, miscarriage occurs when you lose a baby before 20th week of pregnancy although most miscarriages happen early, usually during the first trimester. About 10 to 20% of pregnancies end up in miscarriage. The most common symptoms range from light spotting to profuse bleeding and abdominal pain and cramps. Mayo Clinic gives a comprehensive information about miscarriage.

A miscarriage or an impending miscarriage is usually diagnosed through ultrasound and test of the levels of the pregnancy hormone, beta HCG in the blood. A “blighted ovum” or “empty sac” is considered to be unviable. An embryo that is growing slowly and an indiscernible heart beat are also considered signs of a miscarriage about to happen. But it seems that imaging and blood tests can be wrong as in Erika’s case, and the “blighted ovum” may turn out to be viable. However, such an experience subjects a woman to “an emotional roller coaster.”

I had a similar yet somehow different experience. My first ultrasound showed I had two embryos in my uterus. The second time, one embryo didn’t look too good while the other one was going strong. The third time, one embryo was seen to have two heart beats. Then, one embryo turned to be a blighted ovum and therefore unviable. The other one still had two heartbeats. Thus, I initially started with 2, then maybe 1, then maybe 3, then finally 2. That’s how I ended up with my twins.

However, for Erika and other women like her, pregnancy goes from 1 to 0, then back to 1 again and comes with great psychological burden and extreme emotions – devastation, disbelief, delight, daring to hope again.

During our grandmothers’ time when nobody has heard of ultrasound technology, pregnancy was a clear cut “yes” or “no” after the first trimester. Nowadays we know more and we know earlier about our pregnancies. However, it seems that current diagnostic procedures are not foolproof and give us “maybe’s.” In this day and age, life and nature can still bring us a lot of surprises.

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