Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Debbie

Female
Age at interview: 31
Age at diagnosis: 29

Brief outline: Debbie was expecting her second child, after her first daughter was delivered by emergency caesarian. She hoped for a vaginal birth after caesarian (VBAC). But during labour she felt a searing pain. Her uterus had ruptured and her daughter had to be delivered as an emergency.

Background: Debbie is a teacher, married with two children. White British.

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This was Debbie’s second baby, after having a haemorrhage and an emergency c-section with her first daughter’s birth. After an uneventful pregnancy she had a manual sweep and went into labour, hoping for a vaginal birth after delivery (VBAC). However the labour did not progress quickly and medical staff put in an epidural and started a syntocinon drip.
 
After a few hours she felt a really bad pain high up in her abdomen, like a pressure on her abdomen. Although the doctors said it was just contractions, she felt that something was not right, especially as she was able to feel it through the epidural. An internal examination led to the doctor shouting “code 1 caesarian” and she was rushed through for a general anaesthetic, and remembers nothing else. She had had a complete uterine rupture and the baby was outside the uterus, in the abdominal cavity. The baby was fine once they had resuscitated her. She was 18 months old at the time of the interview.
 
She spent a couple of days on the labour ward, and was then transferred to the maternity ward, where she felt there was a lack of understanding there as to the severity of what she had been through. She stayed in hospital for four days, desperate to get home. She insisted on being discharged earlier than her consultant wanted as she felt would be better supported at home. She was very debilitated when she got home, and it took 8-9 weeks before she could walk normally or do “reasonably normal things”. She had a debrief session at the hospital which she found very helpful.
 
While for 3 months she was just grateful that she and her daughter were both alive, she then started to dwell on the dramatic birth, and what that would mean for having any more children. She was now much more anxious about her health, worried that she might rupture again and extremely worried that she might fall pregnant. Her doctor picked up that she was still feeling traumatised by what she had been through and suggested a psychological assessment 6 months after the birth. The psychologist has put her on a waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
 
While she and her husband do not actively want more children now, she felt very sad that she had had that choice taken away from her. In the early days she would speak to her husband about it, to help her piece things together, but she now tried not to, as it upsets her and him. She found it helpful chatting with people online about her experiences.
 

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