“I’m sorry, I can’t find a heartbeat”

Scan 1

With a long wait ahead before seeing a midwife for our first pregnancy’s booking appointment, I was anxious for ‘proof’ that I was actually pregnant. So I managed to persuade my husband that we should book in for an early scan at a clinic that we had been recommended by friends. I would be 7+6 by then, so baby should be big enough to see. Maybe they’d even find the heartbeat!

We drove the 15 miles to the clinic on our allotted day, 13 June 2018. We sat in the waiting room with the other expectant mums and dads, looking at all the options for a gender reveal and getting gradually more excited.

When we were finally called in, I lay down on the bed with a big screen directly in front of me. The sonographer squeezed the gel onto my abdomen and started to push down on me with the wand, sweeping it up and down, pushing harder and harder and looking at the screen.

“How many weeks are you?” she asked.

“7 weeks and 6 days” I replied.

“Are you sure?” came the reply, “Baby is tiny, no bigger than a grain of rice, could you have got your dates wrong?”

I immediately started to panic. No, I was tracking everything, I knew exactly what date I had ovulated. I couldn’t be wrong.

“I’m going to ask you to book in for another scan in 2 weeks to see how much baby has grown” said the sonographer. “I can’t give you a photo, because we can’t accurately date the pregnancy due to its size, but according to my estimates today, baby is currently measuring around 6 weeks and 4 days and has a heartbeat of 95.”

Shellshocked, we left the scan office, booked in our next date and walked back to the car. We didn’t understand what we were being told. Was baby ok? Can you come back from being measured more than a week behind at that stage? Is 95 beats per minute ok?

Google answered some of those questions for me on the journey home. No, 95 beats per minute is not good at almost 8 weeks. Babies can measure behind, but there is little chance with a heartbeat that slow. I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach.

We had our midwife booking appointment the following morning. I had convinced myself that there was no point going, but my husband persuaded me to go through with it and when we went in to see her, I was so relieved.

“Did they do a transvaginal scan?” she asked

“No, it was abdominal” I responded.

“They shouldn’t have done that so early!” she said “No wonder baby was measuring behind. I can see you’re anxious about it though, why don’t you go to the Emergency Gynae Unit and see if they can do a scan for you?”

So that’s what we did.

The second scan

I phoned the Emergency Gynae Unit (EGU) who agreed that I could come in for a scan the following day. I was equal parts scared about what they would say and hopeful for reassurance that everything was ok.

This time, I had a transvaginal scan. The sonographer paused for a few seconds, then said “Everything seems to be fine. Baby is measuring at 8+2 and although we don’t measure heart rate on the NHS, it looks strong and the speed looks fine. I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”

I couldn’t imagine hearing better news. We left the appointment feeling buoyed up and hopeful once more. Baby is measuring ahead! The heartbeat is strong! We’ve got this.

Or so we thought.

The third scan

A week and a half later, the day after we had bought our very first baby outfit and the day before we were due to go to an expectant parents’ event, I started spotting and cramping.

The panic was immediate. I’d had no spotting since right around my positive pregnancy test. And I’d had some very mild cramping early on but nothing since. This couldn’t be good.

The following morning, the spotting and cramping had got worse. I knew we had to go back to the EGU.

We were seen by a nurse, who said that there were no sonographers in the unit on a Sunday, but they did an internal examination and said that my cervix was still closed, which was good. They booked us in for another scan the following day.

As we sat waiting for our third scan, in the main waiting room of the ultrasound department, we were surrounded on all sides by women, some with visibly pregnant bellies, some not. What would be our fate, we wondered? If hope could work magic, we would have been back in that waiting room again for our twelve week scan, then our twenty and all the others after that. But in reality, we went into the sonography room, had the same pause from the sonographer as we did with our second scan, but this time it was followed by “I’m sorry, but I can’t find a heartbeat.”


All miscarriages have to be confirmed by two sonographers, to make sure the diagnosis is correct. The second sonographer confirmed what the first had seen, and we were also told that baby measured 8+4, a week and two days less than it should have been. We’d had a missed, or silent, miscarriage. My body still thought I was pregnant, but my baby was lifeless inside me.

As I sobbed, a kind nurse walked us up to the EGU through a more private back route, so that I didn’t have to walk through the waiting room full of pregnant women. We were taken into a room where we spoke to another nurse, who talked us through our miscarriage management options.

  1. Expectant management: we go home and wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally.
  2. Medical management: I take medication that dilates the cervix and induced contractions to ‘expel’ the foetus
  3. Surgical management: I am put under general anaesthetic and the foetus is removed via suction

At this stage, I was fixated on the fact that I was walking around with my dead foetus inside me and it was making me feel panicky and uncomfortable. Whatever was going to happen, I needed it to happen quickly.

So we opted for surgical management. This was the option where I would have as little awareness as possible of what was happening. I was booked in for the next available appointment on Friday and then we were free to leave.

As we left the hospital in silence, our hopes smashed and trampled, we didn’t yet know that Mother Nature had other plans for the end of this pregnancy.

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