By Jo Marshall
After five ICP pregnancies, Suzanne believes that women need to be well-informed about the condition and not be afraid to speak to their GP and healthcare professionals.
‘Unfortunately, I was sent home with no information and totally unaware of the risks to my baby.’
‘I itched in my first two pregnancies in 1991 and 1994, so badly that I scratched until I bled. I spoke to my GP, who was very dismissive and I was told the itching was normal. I safely delivered our first child Daniel at 40 weeks and 6 days, and Emma-Jane was delivered after a very quick labour at 38 weeks, in fact 16 minutes after getting to the maternity unit.
‘In 1995, I fell pregnant again. I spoke to my GP about the dreadful itching and was prescribed a spray for my skin, which had no effect. At 37 weeks I was admitted to hospital and monitored for pre-eclampsia. I was also given an appointment to see a specialist, as there were concerns about my liver. Unfortunately, I was then sent home with no information and totally unaware of the risks to my baby.’
When Suzanne went into labour at home, she had a feeling something wasn’t right. The midwife checked her baby’s heartbeat and it was very faint. She was admitted for an emergency Caesarean section.
‘Megan was stillborn on 15 May 1996 and our world fell apart.
‘You cannot put into words the overwhelming sense of loss you feel at losing a child. All the hopes and dreams you have are gone. Walking out of that hospital without your baby is unbearably hard and something you never forget.
‘We later found out from the consultant that they did know something was wrong and he admitted we were kept in the dark. That was hard to accept and it was devastating to know that with support Megan should have survived.’
It was around that time that Suzanne found out about ICP (then known as obstetric cholestasis), completely by chance.
‘My friend’s sister, who was training to be a nurse, was reading a magazine in the dentist’s waiting room and came across Jenny Chambers’ article. She thought the symptoms sounded similar to those I had experienced during my pregnancies.
‘I built up the confidence to call Jenny and we have kept in touch for over 25 years.’
Suzanne went on to have two further pregnancies, and fourth and fifth time around knew exactly what was happening when she started itching again.
‘With Joshua and Ross, the itching started very early into my pregnancies. I prayed very hard that everything would be all right. I wanted the healthcare professionals to have a greater understanding of the condition and ensure they listened to me. My husband and I couldn’t go through losing another child.
‘The hospital and midwives monitored me very closely in both of my pregnancies with Joshua and Ross. Joshua was born in 1999 and Ross in 2001 both at 35 weeks.’
Suzanne is full of admiration for Jenny and the work ICP Support has been doing for 30 years to raise the profile of ICP among women and health professionals. She has supported when she can and was asked by Jenny to do an interview for a magazine to help build awareness of the condition.
‘Jenny is a remarkable woman and without her I am not sure if I would have had the confidence to try for another baby after losing Megan. My husband and I are amazed at the dedication of Jenny and the team. My parents and children think she’s wonderful too.
‘As for what needs to happen now, I believe that all healthcare professionals need to have a better understanding of the condition and listen to expectant mothers.
‘If you are a woman going through this currently, don’t be frightened, but arm yourself with the information you need to have the right conversations with your doctors.
‘We cannot change the past and the heartache of losing Megan will stay with us always; however, my family and I will still work to build awareness of ICP in whatever way we can. We feel blessed to have our children and Megan is a big part of our lives, never forgotten and always loved.’
If this story resonates with you because you have experienced a stillbirth, you are very welcome to join our Facebook Precious Memories Group or our general ICP Support Facebook Group. You might also like to call the ICP Support helpline to talk things through.