When Erin Vogt married her husband Jason four years ago, she wanted to settle down, start her family and have the life that she had always dreamed of having. She never wanted to become a voice for the pain of miscarriage. But in August of 2015, 11 weeks into her pregnancy with twins, a work trip ended with sudden, troubling symptoms.
“I think kind of in my stomach, I knew something bad was happening,” Vogt said, remembering the night that she spent waiting until her emergency appointment. “And I remember just sitting on the couch and just wanting to go to bed that night and wake up and go to my ultrasound the next day and find out that everything was fine. But things kept getting worse and worse.”
Waves of pain sent Vogt and her husband to the emergency room that night, where they received the news that they had lost the twins. “I feel like, even though we kind of had an idea of the negatives as far as what could happen… I never really thought in my wildest dreams that that would happen to us,” Vogt said.
Feeling alone in her grief, Vogt began doing research and discovered information that surprised her. A survey by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System recently found that 41 percent of participants felt alone and 55 percent believed that miscarriages only occur in about five percent of pregnancies or less. The real number is closer to 15-20 percent.
The survey also revealed that 47 percent of participants experienced feelings of guilt, and that a majority believed their miscarriage was related to stress, heavy lifting or other outside factors. It’s a misconception that Vogt believes is unfair to women who, in some cases, alter their entire lives in order to have a healthy pregnancy. “The vast majority of miscarriages happen because it’s a chromosomal abnormality,” she explained, stating that cases where outside factors play a role are rare.
After the loss of the twins, Vogt took time to heal physically and emotionally before she and Jason decided to try again. In April of this year, they discovered that they were expecting once more.
Vogt’s second miscarriage happened seven weeks in.
“And you know at that point, it’s devastating,” Vogt said, “because we were really excited that we were pregnant again and that everything seemed fine. And then for us to go through that experience again, at that point it’s like, well what’s wrong with me?”
Knowing from her research that two consecutive miscarriages were rare, Vogt decided to seek answers. “So as another step in our journey, we ended up getting our doctor just to check things out,” she said. “He did a bunch of blood tests to find out what was going on, and they found something for me. And it’s called MTHFR.”
MTHFR is the abbreviated name of the enzyme Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, which is produced by a gene that, in some people, can contain a mutation. “I have a gene in my body that makes it difficult for me to break down folic acids,” Vogt simplified, “which is what’s in every prenatal vitamin, which is what your baby needs to grow. My body cannot convert the synthetic form of that vitamin.”
The research on the mutation is still in the early stages, and a lot is unknown about the conditions that it can cause and the best ways to treat it. But Vogt has begun her battle by finding prenatal vitamins that contain a natural form of folate and by avoiding food with enriched flour (which contains folic acid). “So while it kind of seems like an easy fix, now we’re kind of at the point in my story where we don’t know what the future holds,” she said. “And if I get pregnant again, it’ll probably be really scary. But there’s hope this time, because they did find something.”
While she and her husband face the uncertainty together, Vogt has decided to use their experience as a way to help others experiencing similar pain. “One of the things that helped me when I had my first miscarriage with our twins was reading other people’s stories,” she said, “because then I realized how common it was.”
She said the reason people tend to underestimate the frequency of miscarriages is that it’s a subject no one wants to talk about, which can make it difficult for grieving parents to seek support. “I just think that a lot of people don’t know what to do, and it’s really uncomfortable, so they back off,” she said. “But you need those people in your lives that are going to hold your hand every step of the way, whether you’re acting like a crazy person or not, or whether you make sense or not.”
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and countries around the world recognize October 15 as a national holiday to remember and celebrate the lives lost through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death. The day places an emphasis on reminding grieving parents that they are not alone and educating people on how to help them live with their loss. “I have three heavenly babies,” Vogt said. “I don’t have any earthly children, but in my mind, my husband and I are parents.”
To couples who have experienced miscarriage, Vogt says to take the time to grieve and to read other people’s stories. She also encouraged them to surround themselves with friends and family who can provide support. She admonished anyone comforting a loved one to simply be there for them and to treat it like a death in the family, “because it is.”
“The main thing,” she said, “is just making sure that people don’t feel alone.”
For more information about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, visit October15th.com. The survey cited in the story can be found at the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26000502.