Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Getting home and trying to get back to normal life

In addition to their physical recovery and their emotional recovery, women may face difficulties settling back into their social relationships with family, friends and their local community. (See ‘How women felt physically’, ‘How women felt emotionally’ and ‘Understanding what happened).
Women we spoke to often felt isolated at first when they came out of hospital, and could find it hard to relate to others, as they had no idea what sort of trauma they had just lived through. This is something that people who come out of intensive care often experience (see Healthtalk ‘Intensive Care: Patients' experiences’) but with childbirth it seemed doubly difficult. Not only did women feel that no one could understand what they had been through, they also felt isolation from others because their birth experience had been such a traumatic event. Cara had a haemorrhage (heavy uncontrolled bleeding) and hysterectomy and felt “very alienated” from other new mothers at the time. As Hannah said, “I think when things are beyond people’s own experiences, people can’t relate to them in the same way.”
Several women described what they felt was a lack of empathy or understanding from friends. Lisa had a haemorrhage and hysterectomy and stopped going to playgroups, because people say such “stupid things”. She fell out with a friend who tried to understand but just said the wrong things.
In the early days when she was home after her haemorrhage, Natalie felt that friends and family didn’t realise how serious her experience had been – “I just don’t think they understood, they really just have no idea”. Anna, who had septicaemia (blood poisoning), thought that family and friends quickly forgot about what she had been through.
Women were often struggling with their recovery from a serious medical emergency, and with a newborn baby. For first time mothers this was particularly challenging. They felt excluded from the normal support routes, such as National Childbirth Trust (NCT) groups, or local play groups, because their experiences were so extreme.
Given the rarity of what they had experienced finding others to talk to who had been through something similar was unlikely. Debbie had found online support groups helpful, but would have liked “to meet somebody face to face and sit and have a coffee and go through what happened, and I’m sure you would end up in floods of tears, but it would be so helpful and it would mean so much more, because you’d have something in common.”
Alison T had amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), a very rare complication of pregnancy in which amniotic fluid, fetal skin or other cells enter the woman’s blood stream and trigger an allergic reaction, that very few women survive. She has looked for support groups and not found anything.

Some women also felt physically very isolated once they were home from hospital. Some were a long way from family, others were not well enough to get out and about and see people, and so became housebound. Clare had a deep vein thrombosis/ blood clot (DVT) in her leg and although there were lots of young families on her road she still felt “quite isolated though because I couldn’t go out and I couldn’t see anybody. I couldn’t see my friends. So it’s a very strange time. I suppose I felt quite detached from the world.” 

Last reviewed April 2016.


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