Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Farkhanda

Female
Age at interview: 35
Age at diagnosis: 34

Brief outline: Farkhanda was pregnant with her 4th son. She experienced bleeding throughout the pregnancy, and at 22 weeks was hospitalised with placenta accreta, later diagnosed as placenta percreta.

Background: Farkhanda is a British Pakistani lawyer, married with 4 sons.

Audio & video

Farkhanda is in her mid-30s. She had three sons and unexpectedly got pregnant with a 4th. Originally there were twins, but one of them miscarried. The miscarriage tore at the placenta, so from early on, Farkhanda bled regularly. At first these bleeds were frightening, she thought she was miscarrying again. But as she got to know her body, and the regularity of the bleeds, she knew what to expect. There were concerns about the pregnancy from early on. Scans showed that their son had problems (possible heart problems and his tummy was outside his body), and they were asked to consider terminating the pregnancy. But she and her husband decided that they wanted to have the baby, however he was. 
 
As her pregnancy continued, his problems were gradually ruled out, so finally all he had to deal with was an exomphalos (his tummy was outside his body). However Farkhanda herself had a very high-risk pregnancy. Her placenta accreta was finally re-diagnosed as placenta percreta. She was hospitalised from 22 weeks, bleeding regularly. A detailed care plan was worked out with a huge team of specialists, including gyneocology, trauma and urology. Consultants came to explain to her the very high risk she was at of bleeding to death once her major haemorrhage started. At 29 weeks, she started her major bleed and her team were called (in the middle of the night), some had to helicopter in to get there fast enough. She had surgery for many hours before waking up in intensive care (ICU). She lost 18 litres of blood. The first emergency required two operations, and when she started bleeding again three days later they took her in to surgery again. She spent 12 days on the high dependency unit (HDU) before being discharged to a post-natal ward. The pain levels she was experiencing were extremely high, and she was on morphine for a long while. However, when she was sufficiently recovered from the emergency surgery she was discharged home. She had some retained placenta in her bladder which caused her a lot of pain, but doctors wanted to wait until she had recovered some of her strength before operating again to remove those bits. Her son was in neo natal intensive care (NICU) for 5 weeks before being discharged. His exomphalos healed itself.
 
Farkhanda was interviewed a year after the birth of her son. He was doing well, and she had finally joined the gym and gone back to work. She felt that the emergency and trauma did a lot to strengthen her family, and bring her and her husband together. But it was a big strain on them all.
 

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