Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy


Age at interview: 41
Age at diagnosis: 39

Brief outline: Cate was pregnant with her third child. During the pregnancy she developed placenta praevia, so had a planned caesarean. Three and a half weeks after the birth of her daughter, she developed a pulmonary embolism.

Background: Cate is an IT project manager. She is married with three children. White British

Audio & video

Cate was pregnant with her third child, she was 39. Her two previous pregnancies were straightforward. She had her first son in hospital, and her second was an uncomplicated home birth. However, scans revealed that she had placenta praevia during her 3rd pregnancy. Doctors monitored her through the pregnancy, and told her at 33 weeks that the placenta had shifted and she would need a planned caesarean. She appreciated the certainty after weeks of watchful waiting, and was allowed to go on holiday (in the UK) on the understanding that she kept an eye out for any key symptoms. 
She went in for her caesarean on a Monday morning and her daughter was born without complications. She found the calm and control of the operating theatre very strange, and felt a lot of discomfort from the operation. She stayed in until the Thursday and was then discharged home. She did not feel terribly well over the next few weeks but had lots of family support with relatives staying and helping out. 
After 3 ½ weeks she developed her pulmonary embolism. It was a hot summer day and she had been on an outing to a National Trust property with her family. When she developed a pain in her back in the evening she thought it was just a pulled muscle. She slept on it but by the Friday morning asked for a doctor to come out and see her, as she couldn’t move from the pain. As she was outside their watchful two week period after an operation, they did not rush to see her, but told her to take her pain medicine and see how it was in 24 hours. It was worse, so she was sent to Accident & Emergency. As it was a weekend, the scan team were not working, but doctors put her on Fragmin (dalteparin) just in case. The pain eased over the weekend, yet when she was scanned on the Monday, although the clot had started to dissolve, they were convinced that is what she had had. She was on Fragmin for a week and then on warfarin for 6 months, managed through her GP. Subsequent blood tests have revealed that she has a blood clotting disorder and so is at high risk. This knowledge, and the risk she is now at, is something that concerns her, although she is grateful for the knowledge. It was only between weeks five and six that she felt that she might be well/strong enough to drive and manage the three kids on her own. She and her husband feel that their family is complete, so other children are not a concern, but doctors told her she would be at high risk if she did want another child.


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