Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy


Age at interview: 37
Age at diagnosis: 29

Brief outline: Cara was expecting her first daughter. She went into labour naturally but was given an emergency caesarean section. Shortly after delivery she started to haemorrhage. Doctors were not able to stop the bleeding and performed a hysterectomy.

Background: Cara worked in advertising as a media director. She lives with her partner and has three children. White British..

Audio & video

Cara was describing her experience from eight years ago, with her first daughter. She had a normal pregnancy and gave up work at 38 weeks expecting to have a couple of weeks of maternity leave before her baby arrived. However she went into labour the day after she stopped work. It progressed quickly and by the time that she arrived at the Birthing Centre she had selected, she was fully dilated, and in the second stage. She went in the birthing pool for a while, but the baby wasn’t coming so they shortly transferred her to the local hospital by ambulance. This was delayed somewhat as there was no gas and air in the ambulance. 
She realised when she had been in the hospital for a while that she had not passed urine for several hours, and she had a catheter put in. She finally had to have a caesarean, her baby daughter was delivered healthy, with a good Apgar score. However shortly afterwards Cara started to haemorrhage. There was a staff shift change between the end of caesarean and the start of the bleeding, and the new doctor on duty was aggressive with Cara as she came in and saw the bleeding – telling her to “shut up and lie down”. The doctors and midwives could not stop the bleeding so they took her in to theatre. She had to sign a waiver before she went in to allow the hysterectomy. She woke up in intensive care (ICU) having had a severe haemorrhage and hysterectomy. The next day she was transferred back to the delivery area but again started to bleed profusely, and this time doctors performed an arterial embolisation as they discovered she had a hole in her iliac artery. She went back to ICU for a week and was then transferred back to the labour ward. Cara felt this was a mistake as she was not given any support through the night and left with her baby who she could hardly lift. After a couple of days she was transferred to a private room on the post-natal ward where the care and support were somewhat better.
Her daughter was looked after by the midwives while she was in ICU, but then she was expected to look after her herself. She did try breastfeeding, and expressed for a while, but her milk didn’t really ever come in. She was referred for counseling before discharge, which she had once she was home. But she did find that hard as it was near the maternity ward of the hospital. She mentioned a very supportive visit from a nurse who worked up on the hysterectomy ward. On discharge she felt very alienated from family (she felt she couldn’t share in her sister’s pregnancy) and other friends and women in her ante-natal group. Her marriage broke down within the first year, and she divorced. But 8 years on, she has a new partner and successfully had twins (genetically theirs) through IVF with a surrogate in the United States. The twins were a year old when she was interviewed.


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