Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy


Age at interview: 37
Age at diagnosis: 36

Brief outline: Alex was expecting her second child. Her twenty week scan showed a low lying placenta, later diagnosed as placenta praevia. She was told to be watchful for bleeds. At 26 weeks she started to bleed quite heavily and was taken into hospital, where she stayed until her daughter was delivered by planned caesarian at 34 weeks.

Background: Alex is a solicitor, married with two children. White British.

Audio & video

Audio onlyText only
Read below


Alex was 36 and expecting her second daughter. Everything seemed to be going fine, but the 20 week scan showed that she had a low lying placenta, later diagnosed with the most serious type of placenta praevia,grade 4,(the placenta completely covers the cervix/birth canal). She was due to go abroad the following week, and was told to take her notes with her and go to hospital if she had any bleeding, but the holiday went fine. However, at 26 weeks, she had a substantial bleed. She was told to go into hospital for a check and further scans. At this stage doctors told her that she would need to stay in hospital until her daughter was born, as there was a high risk of a major haemorrhage starting at any point. The doctors described her body as a “time bomb”.

Alex was visited by paediatricians, who explained to her and her husband what would happen if their baby needed to come early. But the focus was on keeping their baby in utero for as long as possible.

Alex went on to spend eight weeks in a hospital room. She found it very hard to be separated from her two year old daughter, who was only able to come in for short visits. She did not have another bleed for four weeks but from 30 weeks on she began to bleed more regularly. At 34 weeks doctors decided it was time to deliver the baby before she had a major haemorrhage. Her daughter was born by a planned caesarean and needed to spend 18 days in neo-natal intensive care (NICU). The baby had a few problems with her breathing and needed a blood transfusion to help sort out a problem with her antibodies, but she was soon strong enough to come home. Alex managed to start expressing milk and was successfully breastfeeding her daughter at the time of the interview, 4 months after her daughter was born.

Looking back, Alex described the experience as being like a pond that had had a large stone thrown in it. The large initial ripples were ebbing away but there was still disturbance. While very positive and grateful for the good outcome, she was clearly shocked by how dangerous a situation she was in. She thought counselling for her and her husband would be a good idea. She was very positive about the communication and information that was given to her in hospital and the way that her treatment was managed.



Please use the form below to tell us what you think of the site. We’d love to hear about how we’ve helped you, how we could improve or if you have found something that’s broken on the site. We are a small team but will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Please note that we are unable to accept article submissions or offer medical advice. If you are affected by any of the issues covered on this website and need to talk to someone in confidence, please contact The Samaritans or your Doctor.

Make a Donation to

Find out more about how you can help us.

Send to a friend

Simply fill out this form and we'll send them an email