My Misdiagnosed Miscarriage Story

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

As you may know, I announced my pregnancy recently. The beginning of first trimester was difficult; not only because of constant nausea, but also because I was told that I was definitely having a miscarriage. Since we experienced miscarriage in our pregnancy before Baby, you can imagine that this was quite the emotional roller coaster for us.

Although this is pretty personal, I think it’s important to share this story with others to possibly prevent anyone else from having to go through this.

Here is our story:
We have moved since the time when I was pregnant with Baby, so I made my first pregnancy appointment with a reputable practice of midwives and doctors. Although I had never been to this practice, they are the affiliate practice of the midwives that I saw during my pregnancy with Baby. Although they typically don’t see people till 8 weeks of pregnancy, they didn’t have appointments available at that time, so they made an appointment to see me at 6 weeks.

I immediately liked the midwife (I’ll call her Nancy) that I met with at that first appointment. She seemed kind, knowledgeable, and empathetic. Since I was breastfeeding Baby, I had only had a few periods of varying length, so she wanted to do an ultrasound to date the pregnancy.

I am pretty methodical with dates so I shared the exact dates of my cycle, as well as the date of conception. Nancy still expected to see the baby measuring 6 weeks, although by my calculations, it certainly seemed possible that I was not quite there yet.

During the transvaginal ultrasound, I could immediately tell that Nancy did not like what she was seeing on the screen. She told me that this appeared to be a miscarriage because the fetus was not where it should be as far as development. I felt pretty shaken as I got dressed and prepared to go back in the examining room, but I also felt somewhat unaccepting of the news because I thought I just needed to remind her again about the dates and that maybe I just wasn’t as far along as she expected.

Back in the examining room, I clearly stated my thoughts about the dating over and over again. We looked at a calendar, we went through the range of possible ovulation and implantation dates, and I basically pushed the conversation as far as it could go. I questioned every statement she made, but Nancy felt absolute with her proclamation of miscarriage, so I prepared myself to share the news with my husband and family.

I asked if we could do a beta blood test to measure the HCG levels (pregnancy hormone), and Nancy agreed. I would get blood drawn that day and then repeat the test 48 hours later to measure the rate at which the HCG was doubling. The rule of thumb is that they basically expect HCG levels to double every 48 hours. I held out a bit of hope that the HCG tests would tell a different story than Nancy’s version.

Being the information obsessed person that I am, I researched like crazy over the next couple of days. I still believed, based on my research, that my dating could lead to a pregnancy about a week behind the expected dating if my dates were counted from the furthest ends of potential dates.

After getting the results of my two blood tests, the opportunity for hope seemed pretty grim. Nancy was as empathetic as ever, but she still maintained that we were definitely having a miscarriage. The doubling rate of the HCG was about 126 hours and she wanted it to double every 48 hours. I checked out The BetaBase and learned that something like 5% of healthy pregnancies could still have numbers similar to mine, but Nancy didn’t agree.

I then asked for a third HCG test because Nancy was asking me to decide how I wanted to handle the miscarriage – naturally, medical management, or surgical management. I was thoroughly researching all of these options and couldn’t decide what to do so I thought a third HCG number might make the answer more clear (i.e., if my HCG was going down, I would let things happen naturally). Nancy agreed to let me do a third test as a way to help me decide on miscarriage management.

The results of the third HCG test showed that my numbers were still going up! They were doubling at a rate that was very slightly faster than last time, but they were still nowhere near the 48 hour mark that Nancy hoped for. This did not make sense to me at all, so I asked for another ultrasound at the appointment that we had set to discuss how to proceed with the miscarriage.

Nancy was going away on a two week vacation, so she would not be available for this follow up appointment, but she promised that she would get in touch with me to check on me no matter what when she got back. The doctor that I saw that day stayed in the room with me as the ultrasound technician did the ultrasound. Lo and behold, there on the screen was a baby with a visible beating heartbeat! It was SO amazing!

The doctor said that based on the ultrasound and the dates that I provided, there was now no sign of miscarriage or abnormal pregnancy!

Still, they had me come back for weekly appointments, and for several weeks, I really believe that I was treated as a “miscarriage waiting to happen” rather than a healthy, pregnant woman. Although this was obviously very annoying, all I cared about was that I was having a healthy pregnancy.

The important message that I want to share is that you should always trust your instincts and not be afraid to question and demand additional testing when dealing with medical professionals. I greatly respect medical professionals for their hard work and for the miracles that they perform every day, but it does not mean that they are infallible. If you are told you are having a miscarriage in early pregnancy, make sure you exhaust every possible testing option before you accept this news. Miscarriages are misdiagnosed frequently, and I wonder about how many women out there who do not have insurance opt to not have one or two more ultrasounds because they don’t have the money for extra testing and understandably want to process their grief and move on with dealing with the miscarriage.

We are grateful for our little miracle, and I hope this story might help another mama out there!

Have you ever heard a story about a misdiagnosed miscarriage?

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