You can read part 1 – finding out – here. Rather than focus on the first trimester only, this post is about my first 16 weeks, as our first 16 weeks were full of worry and after that we were able to relax a little – so for me 16 weeks was a more distinct end to my ‘first part’ of pregnancy than 12 weeks.
The first trimester
The first couple of weeks of my pregnancy were great. I didn’t feel that bad, just a bit tired and bloated. I was taking progesterone as part of my fertility treatment, which I think caused the bloating more than being pregnant! Despite not having any major fertility problems, other than being diagnosed with PCOS, they recommend this until 12 weeks to reduce the risk of miscarriage. This annoyed me a bit as there was no reason to think I was at risk of miscarriage – it was just an extra thing to pay for and put my body through! – but once they had suggested it, I didn’t feel I could say no in case I did miscarry, then I would have wished I’d taken their advice in case it could have been prevented.
I enjoyed my wife and I having this little exciting secret that no one else knew about. We were due to have a viability scan at 6 weeks at our clinic, at which point they discharge you and you register with a midwife as normal, but I had some spotting in week 5, so we went for a scan just before 6 weeks. It was amazing to see a tiny blob on the screen that was apparently our baby! Most amazingly, the tiny flicker of their heartbeat. It was a massive relief as I knew that seeing a heartbeat means the risk of miscarriage decreases significantly. At this scan I was told I most likely had a partially septate uterus (basically heart-shaped, rather than an upside down triangle, with a septum that comes half way down). However, the baby looked to have implanted in a safe place (the risk being that if they implant on the septum, the risk of miscarriage is high as the blood flow may not be enough to support the growing baby) so I was told not to worry.
(At later scans I was told by doctors / sonographers they couldn’t see any evidence of a septate uterus, and during my fertility treatment no one mentioned it, so who knows…after this baby I can always get it checked again.)
We were a bit cautious but wanted to share our good news, so we told a few close friends and relatives, but then at 7 weeks I woke up in the middle of the night with heavy, period-like bleeding. We were terrified, of course – heavy bleeding is not what you want or expect to see during a healthy pregnancy. For once my excessive reading helped slightly – I knew that it was possible to bleed like this and for the baby to be ok, but I also knew it could mean I was miscarrying. I didn’t have any pain, which helped me to stay a bit calmer. We rang the hospital who said that the Early Pregnancy Unit opened at 8am so there was no point coming in before then (unless it got worse) as I would end up sitting in Accident & Emergency for 6 hours, so we spent a worried 6 hours at home instead, not really sleeping and keeping an eye on the bleeding.
At 8am we went to the EPU, we are lucky there is one not too far from us but as it was a weekend we had to go via A&E. There was a young woman before us who had come in for the same thing, alone – I was so glad I had my wife with me, even though V was more worried than me so if anything I was staying calm for her.
The A&E staff make you do a urine test to see if you are still pregnant in A & E before they will even let you go to the EPU, once this was done – and positive, phew – we walked round to the EPU. It was a mostly empty but very tense waiting room. The poor girl before us came back out sobbing and I felt heartbroken for her and also more nervous. Eventually we were called in. By this point the bleeding had stopped but only for about half an hour – so I had been bleeding for over 6 hours fairly consistently and was feeling pretty apprehensive already.
The member of staff on duty in the waiting room had been cold and formal but luckily the doctor doing the scan was lovely. (I always think bedside manner is so important for reassurance but especially at those early scans when they don’t do it through your abdomen – they do it transvaginally!) She kept the screen facing her at first which is probably the right thing to do but didn’t make me feel very confident. However, after
an age about a minute she turned the screen round to show us a slightly larger blob with a flickering, strong heartbeat.
So, why the bleeding? The doctor said she could see a fairly big bleed (a subchorionic haematoma) next to our baby, outside of the amniotic sac, about 3cm by 3cm. On one hand that sounds small, but considering the baby was barely over 1cm long at the time, it was big in comparison. We were told these were fairly common and most women go on to have healthy pregnancies, but that they can increase the risk of miscarriage, and that I should go on pelvic rest for a couple of weeks and take it easy.
Over the next 5 weeks we had a couple of big bleeds (like the heaviest day of a period, sometimes heavier) and there wasn’t a day when I didn’t at least have spotting; we had several scans (mostly private, for our own reassurance…) and the haematoma was measured as first 3cm long, then 5cm (9 weeks), then 1cm (12 weeks) and then 3cm again (13 weeks); sometimes it looked just like blood and other times partially clotted. Eventually it wasn’t possible to measure the bleed accurately as my growing uterus pushed it out of the way so it was kind of stretched around it rather than in one place. A bit of a roller coaster, but at every scan the baby grew bigger and stronger and the bleed never seemed to be affecting him, so the doctors seemed less worried each time.
That didn’t mean that it didn’t affect me, and V – every time I had a heavy bleed we panicked in case this time was different, we went for reassurance scans and I tried to take it easy. I ended up working from home for four weeks solid, which almost drove me crazy, and in turn I almost drove my wife crazy as I was so moody and frustrated! I had to continue my progesterone pessaries which I’d been taking since August (our first IUI try) until the end of December – unpleasant, messy, and increasing the normal pregnancy symptoms caused by changing hormones.
I had my last big bleed at around 15 weeks, just before Christmas. My spotting had just about stopped and then I decided to walk up to our local high street, which is up a pretty steep hill, but I enjoyed the mild exercise after so long resting. V and I sat down for some lunch and I felt the bleeding start – I went to the bathroom and it was all over my jeans, I’d only been wearing a pantyliner, and I was so frustrated that I sobbed. I’d allowed myself to think that maybe there would be no more bleeding, and I knew that V would beat herself up about not making me take it easier.
Thankfully when we went to get scanned the baby still looked fine and that bleed turned out to be the last one (so far, touch wood!) – just after Christmas my spotting stopped completely, I was allowed to stop the extra hormones, and I could start to actually enjoy my pregnancy.
Other than the bleeding, I was lucky and didn’t suffer too much in early pregnancy. I was hormonal, definitely, and nauseous, but I didn’t throw up too much, and the nausea was on and off (mainly evenings) rather than constant. I did have other digestive problems – probably due to my increased progesterone doses – mainly bloating, wind and constipation, which made me feel really attractive!
Looking back from 26 weeks, knowing that my baby is still here and doing ok, I can see that while my first 16 weeks of pregnancy weren’t exactly what I expected and were more stressful than some people’s, they could have been worse. We were fairly lucky overall: we got pregnant fairly easily (other than the obvious help we needed as a same sex couple!) and (so far) we have stayed pregnant, with no miscarriages. Of course we’re not at the end yet, but the baby appears healthy and we’re close approaching the third trimester, so the odds are largely in our favour.
Having said that, the stress and worry definitely impacted both my wife and me. I don’t think I really believed until at least 16 weeks or later that we would be taking a baby home at the end of this. Deep down I felt like this might end badly, with a miscarriage or a stillbirth. Of course it still could – but like I said, the odds are against it and I actually believe that now. To be honest it’s only really been feeling the baby move so much that has cemented that for me – so maybe this is true for all women and has nothing to do with all the bleeding I had! (Let me know what you think! Did you enjoy early pregnancy, regardless of whether yours was complicated or not?) I definitely can’t say I enjoyed the first 16 weeks though – the worry was too much. Luckily it’s been different since then, which I’ll write about another day!