The Blog

Blood, Fret and Tears

If I had known when I experienced my first miscarriage in the UK that it could cause any complications because of my blood type if I didn't have the Rho-gam injection then I could still be happily expecting our first child.
Alberto Ruggieri via Getty Images

This is a delicate one. Dry January 2014. I gave up drinking and never felt better, even sticking to soda and lime at my friend Kieron's karaoke birthday party. I sang 9-5 by Dolly Parton and took my seat afterwards as the stomach cramps started. Dull at first, by the time we reached home I was doubled up in pain.

The pain in my abdomen became unbearable by 1am and I started to shiver and shake - I couldn't stop my teeth from chattering. It felt like I'd been poisoned, like a rusty nail was poisoning my blood and the toxins flowing through my veins. Painkillers didn't help, and instinct took over as I knew that whatever was poisoning my body had to leave. I'll spare you the details of the severe blood loss as the bathroom was spinning and I turned a shade of white meets grey and fought hard not to pass out from the pain and blood loss.

We had newly moved to a strange country, I had never set foot in an American hospital before in my life and was trying to resist going as I was terrified of the cost of doing so. Despite having health insurance I knew that being hospitalised in the US meant at least $6000 of costs, as that's the deductible on my policy. In the UK, I know I'd have called an ambulance, but I think I kept hoping that each agonizing cramp would be the last one and I'd be granted some peace.

"I can't take any more pain," I couldn't even sob vocally to my husband clearly, breathless and panicked. I'm pretty resilient to pain but this was beating me.

It was a first trimester miscarriage. I had been six weeks pregnant, and by chance doing all the right things - not drinking anything, and I'm fit and healthy. The staff at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles were incredible, as they wheeled me into a private room past the patients on trolleys in a corridor it struck me how this could be any hospital in the UK, it looked no different. A heartbreaking empty scan and tests confirmed the pregnancy and loss.

"What's your blood type?" asked the doctor. It was pretty much his first question.

I'm pretty proud of my blood type. I'm O Rh Negative. I'm the universal donor, the only blood type that you can give to anyone and the NHS make you feel pretty special when you donate blood as I have done in the UK many times for many years before moving to the USA last November.

The doctor asked whether I'd had a previous miscarriage. I had, about 14 months before, it had been early days and straightforward, I didn't feel like I was about to die like this terrifying experience.

"Did you have a RhoGam shot after that?" asked the doctor?

"I have no idea what you're talking about," I replied.

He explained that a miscarriage can trigger my negative blood to produce anti-bodies in a further pregnancy which attack a positive blooded baby - which is most likely if your partner has positive blood. It explained that horrific feeling of being poisoned, the chattering teeth and need to flush the poison from my body - following my first miscarriage in this second pregnancy my blood had effectively attacked the foetus, and me. A Rho-Gem injection would prevent this in the future.

In all the years of donating O Rh negative blood in the UK, no one had told me this could pose a serious risk to a further pregnancy. After my previous miscarriage, when I could not even get an appointment with my NHS GP as I hadn't managed to miscarry before 8am and call on the dot of 7.59am, no NHS medical staff explained to me that I should have the rho-gam shot and it devastated me to learn this could cause a problem which was easily preventable.

A miscarriage is heartbreaking as well as terrifying, the death of hope, of what might have been. I hope that by writing about the dangers of having negative blood in pregnancy and miscarriage I can help even just one person in the same position get some help and answers.

If I had known when I experienced my first miscarriage in the UK that it could cause any complications because of my blood type if I didn't have the Rho-gam injection then I could still be happily expecting our first child. I was never even told of the risk by the NHS, never offered the shot, didn't have a clue that my 'special' blood which they were so aware of could take something so precious from me, and that it could so easily be prevented.

The injection was administered in a routine manner here in the US. Once I had started to recover physically and mentally from the experience I started to research information available to O Rh Negative women who may be in the same position and there is very little available. I found nothing at all on the NHS website, which does offer reassuring advice about emotional support post miscarriage and advice that miscarriage in the first trimester is usually because there is something abnormal with the foetus, but nothing indicting concerns towards blood type clashes between mother and child after a miscarriage. They may administer the injection in a third trimester but no advice on post-miscarriage complications.

If I can help one person to be aware that they need to get their blood group checked and ask about a preventative injection administered post miscarriage if they too have negative blood, if that can give some answers and stop one person from the loss that we suffered, then it will have had at least a small positive outcome. Sorry it's such a serious blog, normal sarcastic service will be resumed shortly...