A woman who was left with PTSD and depression after suffering eight miscarriages shared her struggle to cope with the trauma of infertility – which worsened when doctors laughed at her pain.
Andrea Leon, 27, from Maryland, and her husband Irving, 30, met while they were both in college studying healthcare. They got married in December 2013 and on January 1, 2014, Andrea got a positive pregnancy test result.
Although the baby news came earlier than expected, the pair were thrilled. However, after a few weeks, they are left devastated to know at the 12-week scan that Andrea had suffered a miscarriage.
“My husband is truly my best friend, that is why everything seemed so fast for people outside our marriage, but for us, it seemed just right,” Andrea told Jam Press. “This pregnancy seemed to be going well, and we heard a heartbeat at eight weeks.”
“However, at the 12-week appointment, it was diagnosed that I had what was called a “missed miscarriage” where my body had not processed the loss and continued to act as if I was still pregnant with a growing baby,” she said.
“We were unprepared for such heartbreak and loss.I was told that I could have a procedure done called a dilation and curettage (D&C), which is where they put you on general anesthesia and scrape out the baby’s tissue from your uterus”
“A day before my scheduled procedure, I was having strong jolts of pain and heavy bleeding. This continued for hours, but for me, it felt like an eternity. I was rushed to the hospital and had an emergency D&C,” Andrea continued. “The doctor looked into my eyes as I cried in pain, and said, “Imagine what real labor feels like,” and laughed.”
“I felt defeated and helpless, I remember thinking, “Is this real life?” It was one of the darkest moments of my life,” she said,
Unfortunately, this was not the end of her struggle. Between November 2, 2014, and April 5, 2015, she got pregnant four more times and miscarried each time.
Andrea said that her earlier miscarriages led to a condition called hyperfertility, which means a woman is likely to conceive almost every single time she has unprotected sex. This caused her to get pregnant over and over again within months, leaving her little time to deal with each miscarriage.
“I was never educated that miscarriages could trigger hyperfertility, I then found myself pregnant yet again with little time to recover from the previous back-to-back losses,” she said. “Losing four babies in a year was devastating, [and] each positive pregnancy test came with anxiety, fear, and stress.”
“My fifth pregnancy, I naturally miscarried in my home at about four weeks.”
Andrea and Irving then spent painful two years trying to conceive again, while dealing with unsympathetic comments from those in the medical world.
“My periods became irregular and painful,” Andrea said. “My gynecologist at the time ignored my pains and told me that my pregnancy losses were just bad luck.”
“I refused to accept that answer and it motivated me to keep searching for answers and other opinions.”
In May 2017, Andrea learned that she was pregnant for the sixth time, and for the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy, the couple dared to hope that they would be given the all-clear. But at the 12-week scan, they were once again delivered heart-breaking news and informed that she had suffered another miscarriage.
“We thought that we were finally in the clear but at the 12-week appointment, it was confirmed that there was no heartbeat,” Andrea recalled. “I went home with my lifeless child inside me and carried it for about a week because it was a holiday week and there wasn’t availability for a D&C.”
Andrea was then forced to endure a devastating wait before undergoing the D&C procedure, and she recalls being left unable to sleep and eat during that time – while also suffering other traumatizing side effects.
“There was a foul smell coming out of my private area, which traumatically impacted my mental health as I knew it was the smell of my deceased child,” she revealed. “It made me feel dead inside and out.”
After enduring two more devastating miscarriages, Andrea sought the advice of a reproductive immunologist who diagnosed her with antiphospholipid syndrome, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), and endometriosis.
Andrea revealed how her fertility journey has affected her physically and mentally, saying it has been tough on her relationship with her husband.
“It has for sure taken a toll on my marriage. We have gone through couples therapy, which I highly encourage for couples going through this,” Andrea said. “Mentally, I struggle with PTSD and depression. I have done TMS [transcranial magnetic stimulation] treatments and therapy to help me overcome the trauma.”
“Baby showers, gender reveals and even holidays are difficult to enjoy when it triggers my PTSD and depression,” she added. “Physically, I had sharp shooting pains most likely from all the surgeries from lost pregnancies.”
Despite the tragedy of the miscarriages, Andrea and Irving remain hopeful that they will one day get their baby – and have recently tried IVF, which has cost them $25,500.
After 37 injections, six ultrasounds, and nine blood draw in the span of two weeks, 24 eggs were retrieved.
“If IVF fails, we would like to try surrogacy, but that is an extreme cost as well as adoption,” she said,
Andrea now aims to educate others about infertility and pregnancy loss by sharing her story on Instagram.
“I started this because it helped me cope as I help others with overcoming their losses or infertility. I tell them to allow themselves to grieve and dwell in the sorrow but not forever,” Andrea said. “I also recommend taking a short vacation or trip to help remove yourself from the trauma and grief.”
“This also helps you focus on your marriage/ relationship. I advise you to take breaks and allow time to recover from pregnancy loss but again, this is all on how they personally feel about the loss and how they are recovering.”
“This can be a very lonely journey, especially with ignorant comments and lack of support from loved ones,” she continued. “No one prepares couples or educates them on what to do when it comes to pregnancy loss or infertility, so I like to share resources and personal experience to help others in their journey.”
“Recovery is a daily challenge, but I find that talking about my experiences and helping other women going through this has helped my own trials.”