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Woman told she had miscarriage in fact had healthy foetus

The University Hospital of Wales has been forced to apologise for flaws in the way it diagnosed miscarriage over many years.

This follows the case of Emily Wheatley who was wrongly told that she had miscarried nine weeks into her pregnancy after a scan at the hospital.

She went on to have a healthy baby girl called Ella.

The Public Service Ombudsman for Wales believes that the flaws of the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) practices may have dated back to 2006.

Ms Wheatley was attending a dating scan when she was told that she had suffered a silent miscarriage, this is a miscarriage with no symptoms.

She chose to undergo a uterine evacuation at the Nevill Hall hospital in Abergavenny, but staff at that hospital discovered she was nine weeks pregnant with a healthy foetus.

Ms Wheatley suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. This means her chances of conceiving naturally were ‘very, very slim’.

She describes the adjustment to being pregnant in the first place difficult, then to be told she miscarried was a shock.

To then be told she was indeed still pregnant was unbelievable to her, and she says that the UHW took away the enjoyment of her pregnancy.

Ms Wheatley says, “It’s just unbelievable actually that there are potentially other women out there who have been diagnosed with having a silent miscarriage… and they potentially got rid of healthy babies. That frightens me.”

The Public Service Ombudsman for Wales, Peter Tyndall, says that it was an ‘unacceptable mistake’ which should have been avoided. He has called for a review into midwife sonographers’ competency.

After discovering a silent miscarriage, staff should have used a different scan to give them a ‘more accurate picture’. But they failed to do so.

In a report, Mr Tyndall says that the health boards “failed to implement guidelines issues by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) that were designed to prevent the misdiagnosis of early pregnancy loss” and had been using out-date guidance for two years, possibly more.

The health board has set up a patient helpline for other women who think that they may have been affected.

The ombudsman made a series of recommendation to the health board following Ms Wheatley’s case, including that the health board issues a written apology and pays £1,500 to her.

Dr George Findlay, Cardiff and Vale Health Board Director for women and children’s services said that each year between 600 and 1200 women suffer a miscarriage.

They say that about 600 people may have a miscarriage that they have to intervene with, but they don’t know is what type of scan or number of scans these women had, but say they are happy to look at that on a case by case basis.

Melanie Lidstone-Land, specialist medical negligence lawyer at Swain & Co says, “It is unthinkable what this woman has gone through in the early stages of her pregnancy and the emotional damage this would have caused her.”

“What is extremely worrying is that she may well not be the only woman this happened to and that in some cases, women may have had unknowingly aborted healthy foetuses – this is incomprehensible.”

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