Understanding Molar Pregnancies And The Effects Miscarriage Can Have On Your Marriage
Every year 1 in 1,000 pregnancies result in either a partial or complete molar pregnancy. In an effort to raise awareness, mother of two, Hannah Sheridan, shares her story about being diagnosed with one, the impact it had on her family, and what and what not to say to someone who is grieving the loss of what could have been.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, a molar pregnancy is the result of a genetic error during the fertilization process that leads to a growth of abnormal tissue within the uterus.
A complete molar pregnancy is when there is no developing embryo, while a partial molar pregnancy contains both the abnormal cells and an embryo with severe birth defects.
Even though molar pregnancy is rare, we’ve met quite a few women who have experienced one. In an effort to raise awareness, mother of two, Hannah Sheridan sat down to share her story with us.
Was your molar pregnancy your first pregnancy?
Hannah: No, my molar pregnancy was my third pregnancy. I fell pregnant all three times very easily and my first two pregnancies, which went full term resulting in two healthy babies, were both very straight forward, so for this to happen the third time was a bit of a shock.
How did you find out? Did you have symptoms?
I went for my first scan at eight weeks and the sonographer told me there wasn’t a heartbeat. I didn’t have any symptoms of a molar pregnancy as such, just the standard pregnancy symptoms. I did, however, feel as though something was different compared to my first two pregnancies. I remained hopeful, as all pregnancies are different.
Had you heard of a molar pregnancy before?
Yes, I had heard of molar pregnancy before because my sister-in-law had one a couple of years ago.
However, there was a difference. My sister-in-law had a partial molar pregnancy and mine was a complete molar pregnancy. We both had to have a Dilation and Curettage (D&C) to remove the ‘mole’ from the uterus. Partial molar pregnancies are when two sperm have fertilized the egg, the pregnancy develops abnormally, the placenta outgrows the fetus and it doesn’t survive. A complete molar pregnancy occurs when an egg does not carry any genetic material when it is fused with the sperm. In most cases, the egg dies, however in a complete molar pregnancy, the egg still attaches to the womb. A baby does not grow, only what is called a trophoblast.
What treatment did the doctor recommend?
I had the D&C to remove the mass in my uterus and had weekly blood tests to monitor the levels of hCG in my blood to make sure it was decreasing. Unfortunately, the pregnancy hormone did not decrease sufficiently and in the beginning, even increased. Eventually, it was determined that some of the mole had gone deeper into the wall of my uterus, so I was treated with Methotrexate, a drug used in some form of cancers, to kill the cells. Many times a molar pregnancy can develop into a form of cancer called choriocarcinoma. After about 5 months and numerous shots of the methotrexate, my pregnancy hormone finally went back to 0. And my veins were like leather from the all the needles!
How did you cope with the news?
Although I had a feeling that something wasn’t right with the pregnancy, I was still very sad.
As someone who had wanted four children, I felt like everything was falling into place with two healthy children already, and hopefully, two more to come. When I was told there wasn’t a heartbeat, I tried to hold it together (my husband was not with me) but then the shock hit me, and I burst into tears. Although I didn’t lose a baby as such, I still lost what I thought was going to be a pregnancy and a new addition.
The feelings of pregnancy loss then turned to concern when I realized that my levels were not returning to normal and I was told that the molar could spread and become cancerous. At the same time my OBGYN told me that once the pregnancy hormone was finally back to zero, I would still have to wait another six months on top of that with fortnightly blood tests to make sure the hormone did not increase again. I was 35 at the time and felt like my opportunity to have four children was slipping away.
To say it was an emotional rollercoaster is an understatement. There were a lot of tears and at times I felt quite alone. It’s a tough situation to experience with your partner when physically it’s only happening to you.
Did you eventually try for another baby?
Sadly, when it came time to try again, my husband had decided he wasn’t sure about another baby and our marriage began to break down. Also, once you’ve had a molar pregnancy, you are at higher risk of having another one, especially if you’re above 35 years of age. However, many women go on to have healthy pregnancies after suffering a molar pregnancy.
Why did your relationship begin to break down? Was it a lack of empathy?
There were many reasons why our relationship began to break down. I’ll be clear in saying that the molar pregnancy wasn’t the sole reason, but perhaps a contributing factor. I probably felt the loss more than my husband, and while I did feel I was supported to an extent, it can be quite an isolating experience. I suppose I felt like I was grieving alone, and this can sometimes lead to resentment. As I said before, things were not going to plan, and I felt my opportunity to have more children slipping away. After the experience, and for other reasons unbeknownst to me, my husband was not eager to have more children when the opportunity arose again. A blessing I would say, given the way things turned out.
What types of things did you do to try to get through it?
Well I guess you just have to stay positive. I had two small children to look after, they kept me busy during the day, so I didn’t have too much time to just sit and dwell on it, but at night while they slept is probably when I did a lot of thinking and reflecting. I got up and walked early every morning which was great for fitness and mental health. The whole experience from molar pregnancy to marriage breakdown was very sad, it took a massive toll on me, however I do believe that everything happens for a reason. My advice would be to seek help and speak to the right people and you will eventually find your way through it.
What was the final outcome?
Over a period of a couple of years things escalated and our marriage ended. For many reasons. The breakdown of any relationship is a really awful experience. When your marriage breaks down and kids are involved it’s REALLY awful. I had some terrible days. I felt like I’d let my kids down, I felt like I had disappointed my family and I felt like a complete failure.
However, I have learned that life doesn’t always work out the way you thought it would. Experiencing low moments in your life gives you more appreciation for the highs. I feel like I have a much firmer grip on reality. I’m focusing on the things in my life that make me happy. I love my kids, I feel really optimistic about our future and I appreciate and love the simple things in life!
What advice do you have for women who are diagnosed with a molar pregnancy?
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in terms of treatment and/ or managing your mental health?
I don’t think there is anything I could have done differently. Molar pregnancies are just an unfortunate form of nature. They cannot be avoided and are not a result of something you have done. I was offered counselling at the hospital, but didn’t feel as though I needed it. However, I was quite comfortable talking about it with anyone who asked. As they are not something most people have heard of, I found myself explaining it a lot, which in a weird way, helped.
I would also say that you will most likely come across people who will say things like ‘but it wasn’t a real baby’ or ‘you already have two children, so just be grateful’. Someone also said to me ‘was it planned though?’ As if I should be happy it happened that way. Don’t let these comments influence your feelings. Everyone experiences these things differently and it’s ok to feel loss and feel sad and cry a lot and to question ‘why me?’ For those reading this who have a friend or relative who have experienced a molar pregnancy, if they are willing to talk, just listen and support them, regardless of your opinion.
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