I'm afraid to try for another baby after COVID restrictions forced me to go through miscarriage alone
Elisha Loftus is scared to try for a child again despite her deep desire to start a family.
Last year, she forced to miscarry alone due to Covid-19's maternity restrictions. The whole experience was traumatic and has had long-lasting effects on her, her partner and their plans to start a family.
The 23-year-old's pregnancy was healthy for three months, and despite having to attend scans alone, she and her partner were excited to welcome their first child.
In June, Elisha, started feeling unwell at work, and was told to go to the early pregnancy assessment unit. It was there that she was informed that her baby no longer had a heartbeat.
"I obviously had to go in on my own, and my partner had to wait in the car," she tells me. "I was alone when I found out that there was no heartbeat and that I had to have a miscarriage. Then I had to tell [my partner] – which was hard because I hadn't even processed it myself at that point."
Because of these same policies, Elisha was forced to miscarry without the support of her partner.
Facing miscarriage alone
Elisha was given several options.
She was told that she could miscarry naturally at home with her partner. But this may have taken weeks, and there was a risk that it could occur while she was working as a key worker in a care home in Harleston, Norfolk.
Elisha wasn't willing to chance this, but says she "had to choose knowing that I'd have to do it alone, which was really difficult."
Her miscarriage was not simple. Before she received the second tablet dose, she started bleeding heavily and was transferred to A&E. "I was on my own, sat next to a pregnant woman for four hours, knowing that I was miscarrying. It was horrible, just dreadful," she explains. While she was sent home that evening, she had to return to the hospital the following day.
"Basically, I've got a hidden cervix, so I couldn't completely miscarry. I was in excruciating pain to the point where I didn't even think I could make it to the ward because I was on my own. But the [female nurses] were so nice and understanding. They themselves were so frustrated because I was going through such a horrible experience, and crying my eyes out. But there was nothing they could do.
"It was the hardest on my partner, because he just wanted to be there with me."
Six months on
"When I think back to the hospital, and being on my own, it feels like a really, really, really painful memory," Elisha tells me six months later.
And the implications have been long-lasting. Namely, Elisha says she is "too scared" to get pregnant again. "Everyone has the risk of miscarrying, but being through it once – isolated and in a pandemic – makes me too scared to even try again. It's horrible, because that's all I really want," she says.
She is also regretful of the impact that it has had on her partner, who was unable to process the loss initially. "He never really felt the loss until quite a while after – because I went through the experience, he didn't."
The easing of maternity restrictions would make all the difference to expectant, and especially the first time, mothers, she continues.
Elisha concludes: "The most traumatic thing for me was when I found out. I had to wait for him to drive around, and then pluck up the courage to tell him while I was crying, and trying to process it all myself. Figuring out how to break the news to him was so hard.
"If he was allowed in, he could have been there to take it in with me. We would have gone through it together, instead of me reliving it by telling him afterwards. It would have been both our stories, instead of just mine."
Maternity restrictions in the UK
Sadly, Elisha's experience is not uncommon. Pregnant women are having to attend hospital appointments without their partners due to the coronavirus related policies.
And for some, this means enduring heartbreaking news alone. While some of these restrictions were relaxed in December, with infection rates rising rapidly during the pandemic's second wave, the Miscarriage Association says that loved ones may be asked once again to wait outside.
Joeli Brearley, founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, tells Four Nine: "We are awash with stories from women who are experiencing trauma in hospital alone – from miscarriage, to emergency operations, to labour and after-care.
"Vulnerable pregnant women desperately need the support of their partner, but sadly, too many are being prevented from receiving it. We know this is having a negative impact on their mental health and this will have a domino effect on the future mental health of families. Throughout this pandemic, the specific needs of pregnant women have been neglected. The challenges of lifting these restrictions are complex – but they are not impossible."