Empty Womb - When a Pregnant Mother Suffers a Miscarriage

Miscarraige is Often a Sad Ending for an Excited Mother

It was my son's fifth birthday party. My middle sister was there, glowing with the excitement of her first pregnancy. She had waited a long time. First, she had to convince her husband it was a good time to start a family. They were married for five years before they finally started trying.

After a year of infertility, they discovered the problem: thyroid disease. Treatment took another 6 months, but then they quickly got pregnant afterwards. The new baby would be due in late June, close to my sister's birthday. She circulated darling homemade announcements and we squealed with delight together at the news. I was expecting too (twins!), and my youngest sister was also expecting. All around exciting times for our family.

Halfway through the party, before we even sang "Happy Birthday," my sister emerged from the bathroom, pale. She whispered to me that she was spotting. I assured her that this was normal for early pregnancy, but she could not relax. She was worried she was suffering a miscarriage. She and her husband soon left for the hospital, and I prayed that her 10 1/2 week pregnancy would be just fine. Three hours later, I received the phone call that I will never forget. The baby was lost - she had miscarried.

No one had an answer.

We tried to go out to cheer my sister up, but what can you say to someone who has suffered such a loss? I sat in her car for hours afterwards, sobbing with her, holding her hand and basically just listening to her grief.

"Miscarriage" by Rachel Dolezal
"Miscarriage" by Rachel Dolezal

Signs of a Potential Miscarriage

In general, the highest risk of a miscarriage is in the first trimester of pregnancy (weeks 1-13). Given that a woman does not even know she is pregnant until at least week 4 or 5, there is an approximate 2 month window that is particularly important to watch. While miscarriages can, and do occur after week 13, they are much more rare.

The statistics are interesting, but not necessarily comforting. It is estimated that up to 40-50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, but many of these are not even known by the mother. Further, more than 60% of fertile couples will suffer a miscarriage at some time. Many are lost before implantation, and others are "pregnancies" that occur without a fetus accompanying the sac or placenta. Once a fetal heartbeat is detected (usually around week 10), only 5% of these pregnancies end in miscarriage.

The symptoms of a potential miscarriage include:

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting, usually accompanied by pain
  • Dull backache
  • Cramping
  • Blood clots

Note that you may have these symptoms with a perfectly normal pregnancy. 90% of pregnancies with bleeding at 7-11 weeks go on to full term! However, you should definitely call your doctor if you notice any of these signs. While it will not be of comfort to the mother who could lose a baby, many miscarriages during the first trimester are nature's way of aborting those with chromosomal defects that either would not survive outside of the womb, or would be severely impaired.

Miscarriage Risk Factors

You may be more at risk of a miscarriage if you are over the age of 35, or have a history of miscarriages. If your mother's side of the family has had miscarriages, that may also increase your chances of having one. If you have had a previous baby with a birth defect, let your doctor know, as well.

Chronic diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes may also increase your risk. Consider whether your uterus is mis-shaped or if you have fibroid tumors, too, as these may be factors. Certain bacterial or viral infections during pregnancy (measles, herpes, hand and foot disease and other bacterial infections that can be contracted from ingesting soft cheeses) can also result in miscarriage. Sometimes, hormonal factors are involved, such as Cushing's Syndrome, thyroid disease or polycystic ovary syndrome. Be sure to have a complete screening before trying to conceive.

The good news is that there are factors that you can control to reduce your chances of miscarriage:

More good news is the fact that using laptop computers and electric blankets will not cause miscarriages. Nor will exercise or having sex (except in very rare circumstances). So enjoy life!

The bottom line is that you should be in excellent health to have a baby. Obviously, being younger helps (but not too young, of course). It helps to stop ingesting potentially toxic substances at least 6 months before you plan on trying to get pregnant, and to take at least 400 milligrams of folic acid every day. Even if you not trying to get pregnant, the FDA recommends that every woman of childbearing age take folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects, given the fact of "accidental" pregnancies!

Video About Personal Loss

Things Not to Say to a Parent Who has Miscarried

  • You can always try again
  • There was probably something wrong with the baby
  • At least you already have a baby (or child)
  • You're young
  • It's God's will
  • I know how you feel

How Do I Know if I Miscarried?

A doctor will perform an exam. First, he or she will examine the cervix to see if it is dilated and/or if the uterus is enlarged to an appropriate size for the weeks of gestation. An ultrasound may be performed. Sometimes an HGC test, which measures the level of the pregnancy hormone in the blood is also run. My sister's doctor determined that her cervix was dilated and ran an HGC test. The baby was gone and her HGC levels were dropping, showing that the pregnancy had been lost.

Depending on how far along your pregnancy is, and other factors, you may need to have a D&C (dilatation and curettage) to remove the extra tissue in your womb and prevent the possibility of infection or hemorrhage.

At times, the baby was never even viable from the start. These pregnancies are sometimes called "chemical pregnancies." At conception, some of the information that is required to be transferred from sperm to egg gets "lost." The fertilized egg begins to die at that point, but the actual miscarriage does not happen until weeks later. Bleeding is usually the first sign that something is not right. Fortunately, these circumstances are rare and should not recur with the same parents.

After a miscarriage, women may feel betrayed by their own bodies
After a miscarriage, women may feel betrayed by their own bodies
Is a baby in the future after a miscarriage?
Is a baby in the future after a miscarriage?

Pregnancy After Miscarriage

Depending on the causes of a miscarriage, ovulation can occur again within 4-6 weeks following a pregnancy loss. Most doctors will recommend that you wait until you go through at least one more menstrual cycle before trying to conceive again. More importantly, you should wait to make sure you are emotionally ready before trying again. This will vary between individuals; some should wait 2-3 months, or more. Doctors may even advise you to wait up to 9-12 months.

The exciting news is that the chances of conceiving subsequent to a miscarriage is 80-90%. Even if you have had two miscarriages, you can still have a 75% chance of a successful pregnancy afterwards.

My sister's very next pregnancy was a success. She had a baby boy in September (just 3 months after her first baby would have been due). Between her first and second children, she suffered an ectopic pregnancy, but fortunately for her, did not lose the tube.

You never know what your chances truly are. Personally, I had a brief period of infertility between my second child and my twins (my last pregnancy). My middle sister had 2 miscarriages. My youngest sister had a surprise pregnancy (uneventful) and then 5 years of infertility, going through IUI, and in vitro to conceive her second child, due to endometriosis. As of the date of publishing this Hub, she is due in 2 weeks with another boy!

No matter what, try not to despair. Talk to your doctor and determine if there are factors that you can change to improve your chances the next time around. If odds are against you due to age or health conditions, you may want to consider alternatives now, such as donor eggs, surrogacy, or adoption. Personally, I know many people who started these processes only to find out that they finally conceived and successfully brought a baby to term! Even if that is not in the cards, however, you can rejoice in the excitement of bringing a new family member into your life in other ways. It is a very exciting time!

I Would Die for That

© 2008 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 45 comments

crashcromwell profile image

crashcromwell 8 years ago from Florida

This is an intensely personal issue you're tackling and you're doing so with grace. Both my mother and my wife have suffered miscarriages, and both also had premature babies (including me). There's so much mystery involved in these issues. Something we're probably not meant to fully understand.

Jim Henry


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Jim, thank you so much for your personal comment! This is so tough for me, and tears well up in my eyes, just reading your comment. It is so hard for a woman to want a baby so much (and even a man), and then to suffer a loss. Well, there is nothing that compares. My heart still aches at the loss of my unborn niece or nephews. I so appreciate your sharing. Steph


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 8 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Beautifully written hub. With so much feeling being personally involved comes through in your writing.

My daughter was pregnant with twins, she lost them at about 18 weeks. I have to be honest, I was not as supportive then as I should have been. I still do not understand my lack of support for her. Yes I was sorry for her loss dont get me wrong. But then for some reason I didn't (shocking now I know) realise how far she was and to the extent that the baby would have been developed.

She and her husband still feel that loss more than sixteen years later. I wonder if I had have been more understanding.... But who knows. My ignorance or lack of knowledge in those days is no excuse anymore. I had one child (our daughter)and adopted our son. Because I went through a bad pregnancy with her.


Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 8 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

Wow, emotional stuff. I'm glad your sister had a successful pregnancy and birth after that.


516Ads profile image

516Ads 8 years ago from Long Island

Stephanie,

You're special  .. whether you HUB about loving topics, sensitive topics your warmth always comes through and you make a positive difference in others lives. I know it's just one point, but 99 is to low a score for you, you're a 100 +

When I write HUBpages is a great site ... it's because of someone like you. Keep up your great work ... the world needs it, and so many appreciate it. - Thanks, David


danielpyle profile image

danielpyle 8 years ago from USA

Steph,

Thank you so much for handling this very sensitive hub. My first wife miscarried. It was devastating for both of us. I remember vividly the excitement that we had when she found out she was pregnant. It would have been our second child as our beautiful little girl was then two years old. I remember breaking down in tears in my bosses office at work, something that a MAN like me would never do, right? I believe now that there was a greater design at work. I often wonder though if that would have been my little boy. I am blessed though with two beautiful daughters who have colored my world beyond my wildest imagination. Thanks again Steph.

Daniel Pyle


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Eileen, I didn't touch upon this in my Hub, but with twins there does appear to be a slightly increased risk of losing one or both babies. I found out at 12 weeks that I was carrying twins and was so worried, really until I was about 6 months pregnant, that I would lose one. I am sorry to hear about your daughter's loss. Perhaps you can tell her some time that you wish you could have been there more for her. But don't beat yourself up too much. My sister's husband seemed very angry at her and short-tempered about her grief. I think it was just his own personal way of dealing with the loss.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

CW, yes - this was a tough one to write, but I hope it is helpful to some.

David, thank you so much. I feel like I can write with sensitivity on this issue as a mother and as a sister and friend to a number of women who have suffered such losses. I could have, but did not write about my cousin's stillbirth of his first baby (a daughter). And I have another friend who suffered 5 consecutive miscarriages between her first and second children. It was devastating. Anyway - I appreciate your kind comments.

Daniel - so, so sad. I truly am sorry to hear of your loss. You may always wonder about that lost baby. Thank you so much for sharing. Blessings, Steph


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

Sensitively done, as always. Pointing out what not to say to a woman who has miscarried is very helpful. It is such a huge loss and often people don't understand.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you so much, Amy. I definitely agree. People may discount the magnitude of the loss, but it is a very sensitive time for the parents directly affected (and possibly even extended family members).


Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

Steph, this is full of so much great information. I like that you included "what not to say" - but, are there things that are good to say?


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Stacie - thank you. That is a great question. The things that I said to my sister and friends were simply, "I am so sorry." "What can I do for you?" "I am here for you." "Please call me whenever you need to talk." Really, just being there to listen is the best thing you can do. I sent cards to each of them (in the mail), and I also called them periodically (you can gauge this based on your individual relationship) to check in and to invite them to go out to coffee, a movie, shopping, or some other activity - again, based on what may be appropriate.

One of my friends who had several miscarriages is very religious. She enjoyed talking about God and Jesus with me over coffee. My friend in Oregon (I lived in Washington at the time) was far away from me, but we emailed often and got together for a cabin weekend right around the time she got pregnant with her second son - and finally did not miscarry! I think that the art is to be a good listener, which is always appreciated in any kind of conversational setting. People always believe you to be such a super friend when you let them do most of the talking. That is even more critical in this circumstance.


Stacie Naczelnik profile image

Stacie Naczelnik 8 years ago from Seattle

Thanks Steph - that's what I was thinking: just be a good listener.


Lilymag profile image

Lilymag 8 years ago from Upstate New York

Steph-

I am so sorry for your sisters and family's loss. I have not experienced a miscarriage myself, but I do have 2 daughters and my last one was an extremely high risk pregnancy. So I can understand the stress, and concern. Again I am sorry, it is a great thing that you are able to talk about this issue here, and I'm sure you have helped your sister immensely, although nothing can take away the loss of a child.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Lilymag, thank you for your kind words. For a period of about 5 years, I watched so many friends (and my sister) go through a number of miscarriages. It is a helpless feeling. By writing this Hub, I hoped to help others going through it, or who know someone who has gone through the loss. I am happy to hear that you got through your pregnancies and wish you good health in the future as well!


Dilshad Billimoria 8 years ago

Hi,

My husband, sent me the link to this site, which gives some meaning to the 8 month baby i just lost last week. No one really understood what I am going through, but having read the above, I feel there are others who have felt the same way I have. If only I had seen my little boy before he slipt into the next world...

I will always remember him and my husband and son in all the happiest moments in our life, because the new baby was living in my womb for 8 months and listened to all we had to say to his arrival which never happened.May his soul rest in peace!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Dilshad, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I cannot imagine the depths of your grief. I am truly so sorry to hear of the loss of your baby boy.


RUTHIE17 8 years ago

Steph--a wonderful and lovely Hub. The sympathy, sorrow and love you've let come through your written words speaks loudly of the special person you are. You're family is blessed to have you there to help them through the dark points of life.

I too had a miscarriage between my first and second children. The doctor told me the fetus was badly deformed and would have never carried to term. Of course, that made me scared to death the whole 9 months before my daughter was born! It's been 41 years since I miscarried but a small piece of my heart will always grieve for my baby that never was.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Ruthie, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You are a special person too, and the love you have for your unborn child shines through. Steph


RUTHIE17 8 years ago

Steph--I'll say it again. You're just the sweetest person! I'd love to have you for my next door neighbor!


donnaleemason profile image

donnaleemason 8 years ago from North Dakota, USA

That was beautifully done Steph. I lost two and I still wonder what it would have been like to have them with me today. I remember just bawling and it was hard for my husband to understand how I could grieve for something that I didn't carry to term. You were so sensitive and kind and I think that just being there and letting the parents grieve is sometimes the nicest thing you can do.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Ruthie and Donna, it truly makes me sad to think of you both suffering such great losses. As a mother, I loved each one of my children the minute I found out I was expecting (maybe even before!) Only in that way can I begin to understand the depth of your grief, and of others who have lost babies before birth. Ruthie, my dear - it would be an absolute JOY to have you live next door!! :-) Steph


The How To Hub profile image

The How To Hub 8 years ago from Australia

Thanks for making me cry!!! You've tackled this sensitive issue well Steph. I doubt there is a single one of us hubbers who have not experienced the loss of miscarriage directly or through our family. The loss of two pregnancies between my first and subsequent children was enough to stop me trying for many many years. Without a doubt the hardest time was directly after the miscarriages when my body reacted as it did after the birth of my first child.....I had milk, love and tenderness for children I never got to know or even hold...

There are some things we will never understand and it is not our place to question why or seek a definitive answer. There is no blame, there is no reason just emotions like loss, anger, grief and eventually hope.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

HowToHub - I am so sorry to hear of your loss! I can tell you are a wonderful mother through our connections on other Web 2.0 sites. It really breaks my heart to hear of everyone's individual losses. Such a difficult topic to discuss and one that we never will understand, despite medical "explanations." I believe that the grief is not lessened by hearing doctor's words. My thoughts are with you. Steph


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Wonderful writing.

My best mate had a miscarriage in mid-2008, and is now pregnant again, and of course, she's worried all the time!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hello LondonGirl,

I have a friend in the same place as yours right now. Actually, she had a stillborn in 2006. Now, she is expecting her second child and fingers crossed will have a baby in March! :)

Best, Steph


sheenarobins profile image

sheenarobins 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Im sorry for your sister's loss. I like the hub, it's very informative. thank you for sharing your story.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Sheena, thank you! I think that sharing the story about miscarriages here helped both of us heal after the loss.

Steph


sheenarobins profile image

sheenarobins 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

How I wish my aunt was an internet type of person, she could have read this. It wasn't really miscarriage, she lost the baby to mayoma (I'm not sure if it spells right, it sounds like that). she was very depressed and her OCD (Obseessive Compulsive Disorder) got worse because of stress and depression.

It made really sad because she is my favorite aunt. I can print this, can I?


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Sheena, of course you can print this! I hope that it helps your aunt. I am so sorry for your and her loss. All the best, Steph


sheenarobins profile image

sheenarobins 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

thanks steph. I an feel you from here.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Anytime. Please take care, Sheena,

Steph


ajcor profile image

ajcor 7 years ago from NSW. Australia

Hi Steph, I think you were writing about me when you wrote "And I have another friend who suffered 5 consecutive miscarriages between her first and second children. It was devastating. " Except that I lost my very first baby pre the first baby who was so early I baptised him with the milk....my 7th baby was also very early and took me three and a half months on hospital to finally have a live child in my arms again...have to go the tears are starting again...so many years ago but....you know.....


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 7 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Oh Ajcor, that is heartbreaking to hear about. I don't think that years heal the loss. It has been 6 years since my sister's first miscarriage. She does have 2 healthy children, now, but the sadness is still there.

I cannot imagine the pain. And your fear after delivering babies so early. Best to you, Steph


smackins1974 profile image

smackins1974 5 years ago from UK

This is one of those subjects that has to be experienced to be fully aware of what someone is going through and yet even then every miscarriage is different as it is a different individual experience. You have tackled this subject with a very caring nature. I myself had problems from the start needing fertility drugs even to conceive and lost 2 pregnancies to miscarriages; but to give a little hope to others out there I now have a 16mnth old little girl. so it is true that healthy pregnancies are possible after miscarriage(s) I agree with other comments about the section on things not to say I heard them all and similar others both times. I found it very hard to settle into pregnancy after 2 miscarriages constantly worried fate would intervene by the time I felt it safe to believe I'd be okay our daughter arrived 5wks early to assure me it was all going to be ok.

Thanks for writing this hub, even with tears down my face it is a relief to hear your story and know that others out there understand.

Sarah


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Sarah, I can feel your emotions through your comment and can only imagine what you went through. Blessings to you and your wonderful little girl. Wishing you all the best and I so appreciate your sharing your experiences on this painful topic. Best, Steph


JadedLove 5 years ago

when i found out i was pregnant a week later i started bleeding like i had my period. i was so scared because i didn't even intend to get pregnant and i just wanted everything to be ok. i went to the emergency room, and sat there for 5 hours. when i realized i stopped bleeding, i just went home because they kept me waiting. a week later i took a pregnancy test and since it said i was still pregnant i felt relieved. i went on to have the most beautiful baby but i will never forgive that hospital for making me wait 5 hours in terror. take my advice, if you think somethings wrong, call an ambulance. they always get seen first.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

I am so sorry you had such a terrifying experience JadedLove. Very happy to hear that you had a beautiful baby, but there has to be a way to help expectant mothers through tough times like these. Best to you, Steph


Katie 5 years ago

I'm very sorry to hear about the loss many of you have suffered . I came across this post because my sister was expecting her first and miscarried . I was looking for some words of guidance and advice for what I should say and do. She started to write a blog 3 months before even trying she was so excited and is so crushed ... After only 8 weeks of being pregnant she lost the baby. If any words of wisdom or advice come to mind please do comment.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Katie,

Very sorry to hear your sister's sad news. Every one grieves in their own way, but I've heard that having a small memorial service to honor the lost life can be healing. It doesn't have to be at a worship hall. A home, or perhaps a beautiful park, could work equally well.

The best thing you can say is, "I am here for you," and "I love you." Take care, Steph


rayechan profile image

rayechan 5 years ago from Missouri

It's very sad how many women actually suffer from miscarriages. I myself have suffered from 7 altogether, many of which I miscarried after 13 weeks. It was devastating to take the tests, have them come back positive and just barely into the second trimester to lose them all.

My boyfriend and I planned and tried to conceive for months. We both agreed we wanted a child and both agreed we'd do what we could in order to have one. After losing 3 with him, he suggested that we wait because he was afraid of my emotional and physical health after each miscarriage and even he said that he was hurting and that maybe waiting a bit would be best for both of us.

We wound up getting blessed in April of this year and we're expecting in January 2012 but we both can agree this pregnancy hasn't been easy on me. He's so concerned about the baby and I that sometimes I feel he'll worry himself to death.

When I had my multiple miscarriages, I found that many people who had never suffered from one said things that hurt my feelings more than those who have had one before. I found that having someone there to cry on their shoulders and them being supportive without saying something was more what I wanted.

The lose of a child is always one of the worst things anyone can suffer, no matter if you are male or female. Thank you for writing about such a sensitive topic. Even though it brought back my own memories, I realized that I wasn't alone in mine, no matter what I may have thought or felt at the time it happened.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi rayechan,

I am very sorry that you have suffered such loss, so many times. I hope and pray that the remainder of your pregnancy goes well and that you deliver a healthy baby in January. I appreciate your comment and perhaps someone else who has suffered the loss of a child will find solace in the knowledge that they are not alone. Best to you and your boyfriend, Steph


Penny G profile image

Penny G 2 years ago from Southern Iowa

I struggled through 14 pregnancies and lost the first nine. They were all in the second or third trimester. Finally I carried one to 7 and half months, and after a long hospital stay she came home to the nursery that waited so long for a baby . I then had two more early arrivals, these baby girls were born three years in a row. I lost two more then had two full term. It took many surgeries and constant bed rest. There were times my face was sore from the salt of my tears. I never gave up, but I suffered such sorrow. Many people showed little sympathy because they thought I should just give up. I would not be a Mother of many if I had. The joy of finally having a tiny little infant looking up at me in that delivery room made it all worthwhile. I never gave up on Jesus and his promises. Look what he did for me!


Gina Valera 2 years ago

I found out I was pregnant after taking out my mirena after 5 years and 3months later a positive test. I was so early but I was excited. I had a tubal in the past but had 5healthly children. From the beginning it wasn't going well my hormone levels were always low and after 3week I was told this was not viable. I did not have pain,bleeding,ect. Had an ultrasound they couldn't see anything. The exam doesn't seem like a tubal but started spotting last night. Just waiting for the doctor to call so I can go to the hospital and take medication so it can be over. I am so disappointed. I was so happy and now feel so deeply saddened. I thought this was going to work out.... It would have been my fiancé first child. I feel like I failed him that's what hurts the most


Penny G profile image

Penny G 2 years ago from Southern Iowa

AWW don't give up. If I had I would not have any Children. I is so very hard, but you as many of us will get past it. So soon after the mirena being removed maybe had something to do with it I don't know but ask your Doctor about trying again. Blessing and comfort to you.

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