PARENTS

Recurrent Miscarriage: An Aspirin A Day Could Have Saved My Babies

14/08/2014 17:02 | Updated 20 May 2015

Dawn Paddock wants to raise awareness of Hughes syndrome - a treatable cause of recurrent miscarriage.

A mum endured five miscarriages before discovering that her heartache could have been prevented by simply taking aspirin a day.

Dawn Paddock, 35, now has three children - Shay, four, Isobel, two, and 10-week-old Leo. But there was a time when she thought she might never become a mum, as miscarriage followed miscarriage - and doctors couldn't tell her why.

Dawn has since learned that her miscarriages were caused by an easily treatable auto-immune condition called Hughes Syndrome (also known as Antiphospholipid syndrome or APS).

According to the charity The Hughes Syndrome Foundation:

"In pregnancy, APS can increase the chance of stillbirth by three to five times; it is also associated with other complications such as pre-eclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction and premature birth.

i

APS is the most common, potentially treatable cause of recurrent miscarriage.

i
Despite having previously worked as a nurse on a gynecological ward, Dawn was not familiar with Hughes syndrome. She believes that a widespread lack of knowledge about this relatively common condition causes many women to endure recurrent miscarriages when treatment is simple and effective - aspirin.

Dawn and her husband Christian, 36, had always been keen to have a big family and she was ecstatic when she fell pregnant not long after their wedding day in 2007.

"We were so excited," she says. "The only problem was I had an inkling something wasn't quite right as I'd had some bleeding, but I was hoping for the best."

Due to the spotting, Dawn's doctor decided to give her an early ultrasound scan at 10 weeks.

"They couldn't see a heartbeat, but they said the baby was only measuring six weeks so I must have got my dates wrong and it could be too early to see a heartbeat," says Dawn.

At a second scan two weeks later, there was still no heartbeat and Dawn lost the baby.

"Of all the miscarriages I've had, I think we coped with that one the best," says Dawn. "I knew how common miscarriages were, so I thought well, we'll be fine, we'll deal with this. I assumed we'd get pregnant again within a couple of months and that would be that."

However, a year later Dawn hadn't fallen pregnant, so she and Christian were referred for fertility tests.

"The tests found that my husband's sperm count and my hormones were fine," she says. "The doctors thought that one of my tubes might be blocked, so they put me on medication to help me release more eggs. But the treatment actually had the opposite effect on me and my periods stopped.

i

By then we had been trying for almost two and a half years. I'd started having counselling because I was having difficulty coping with the fact that we'd hit a brick wall and nothing was working for us, while everybody we knew seemed to be having babies at the drop of a hat.

i
In March 2009 Dawn was referred to an IVF clinic and was told she could start her first cycle in September.

"Knowing that in a few months' time we would be starting IVF took the pressure off me," says Dawn. "I think that's why in June I fell pregnant naturally!

"I felt over the moon. It was a bit stupid really, but I told my mum and my friends that I was pregnant straight away because I was so excited and I thought as I'd had such bad luck last time, it wouldn't happen again,"

Because of her history, Dawn had another early scan at six weeks and this time they found a heartbeat.

"There's not much to see in those early scans, but they gave us the scan photo anyway and we took it home and showed everybody. We even went out for a meal to celebrate, not realising that in few weeks I was going to miscarry again.

i

I think of all the miscarriages that was the worst because it had taken us so many years to get there and then it was just snatched away. The doctor couldn't give me any reason as to why it had happened again.

i

One of Dawn's friends told her that she'd heard of a woman who had taken a daily aspirin tablet to prevent a miscarriage.

"At that point I would have tried anything," says Dawn. "So I asked my doctor whether I could be tested to see if aspirin would work for me."

Recurrent miscarriage investigations aren't usually carried out until after a woman has had three miscarriages, but as Dawn had struggled to conceive, her doctor agreed to refer her for the tests.

It was while waiting for the tests results that Dawn fell pregnant for the third time.

"I was nervous, but I thought there was no way it could happen again," says Dawn. "This time I didn't tell anybody that I was pregnant and I started taking some junior aspirin straight away."

When Dawn was 10 weeks pregnant, she received the results from her miscarriage investigation. Her doctor told her everything was normal and that there was no need for her to take the aspirin. But, he said, the low dose tablets were unlikely to do any harm, so if it made her feel better then she could continue to take them.

So Dawn continued to take 75mg of aspirin throughout the pregnancy until her first son Shay was born in 2010.

"The relief when I finally held him was huge," says Dawn. "I just couldn't believe he was finally here after three years of trying.

When Shay was just five months old Dawn discovered she was pregnant again.

"We always knew we wanted more than one, so we just thought whatever happens, happens, but I didn't expect it to happen quite so quickly!" she admits.

Dawn decided not to take aspirin this time, as she had been advised that it had been unnecessary during her last pregnancy. She miscarried at eight weeks.

i

To this day I'm terrified of scans. Other women are so happy waiting for their photos and I sit there shaking. I actually physically shake because I've heard that much bad news in the scan department.

i
"As soon as they started scanning there was this long pause and I just knew they were going to say something awful... again."

Following her third miscarriage, Dawn went on to miscarry twice more, each when she was eight weeks pregnant.

"There were a few times we felt like giving up," says Dawn. "But Shay showed us what we could get at the end of it, and that gave us the strength to keep going.

"But by this point I needed answers, so I asked to be referred to a recurrent miscarriage clinic in Liverpool."

At Liverpool's Women's Hospital Dawn underwent further tests, which showed that she had Hughes Syndrome.

i

It was like a weight had been lifted. Even though I knew I didn't smoke, I didn't drink, I didn't do things I shouldn't be doing when pregnant, you still wonder: Is it my fault?

i
"When I read up on the symptoms I realised I'd had a lot of them for years - like migraines and pins and needles in the hands.

"The consultant said that my condition must not have been as bad when I had Shay. Then I told him I'd taken aspirin and he said: 'Well that must be why he's here.'"

Just four days later Dawn discovered she was pregnant again and this time things went very differently.

As well as a daily 75mg aspirin, Dawn was also given blood thinning injections and in June 2012 her daughter Isobel was born.

"It had been a long trek but we'd finally got our two babies," said Dawn. "Our plan was to leave things a few years before trying again, but just over a year later I fell pregnant, which was a bit of a surprise to say the least!

"But we knew what to expect this time and this was by far my easiest pregnancy."

Dawn's youngest son Leo was born In March 2014.

Dawn Paddock wants to raise awareness of Hughes syndrome - a treatable cause of recurrent miscarriage.

Dawn now has her hands full with three children under five years old, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

i

When I'm getting up for a night feed and I'm really exhausted, I think of all the nights I spent lying awake and crying because nothing seemed to work out. I remind myself of that feeling and suddenly I don't care about getting up in the middle of the night anymore.

i
"I'm just disappointed that it wasn't picked up earlier and I want other women to be aware that such a simple treatment can end the heartache.

"If a woman has had two miscarriages where the baby's heartbeat was seen and then it stopped – which is a sign that it could be APS - and some of the other symptoms, such as migraines, balance problems, pins and needles in your arms and legs, then I think they should be offered the test, rather than having to go through the agony of miscarrying a third time."

For more information on Hughes syndrome visit the Hughes Syndrome Foundation website.

Suggest a correction