Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Naomi

Female
Age at interview: 37
Age at diagnosis: 35

Brief outline: After two traumatic births with her previous daughters, Naomi had a planned caesarian booked for her third. Two days before it was due, she had a uterine rupture. Her daughter was delivered by emergency caesarean. Her daughter was fine but Naomi developed a rare colon condition, Ogilvie's syndrome.

Background: Naomi is a psychologist. She has three daughters and lives with her partner. White British.

Audio & video

Naomi had traumatic births with her two previous daughters. During her first pregnancy she had been very anxious, after several miscarriages. She ended up having an emergency caesarian section. She did not see her first daughter born, and did not believe she was hers. Thus she felt traumatised and had difficulty bonding with her baby. Her second daughter was born by a planned caesarean but shortly afterwards she experienced health difficulties. She was offered a lot of support from the hospital consultant and midwives in planning her third birth. They were focused on giving her a good experience, and she had a caesarean planned for the Thursday. She felt very positive about the operation, as she knew who the gynaecologist and anaesthetist were going to be. 
 
But, on the Tuesday evening she felt a searing pain as she was at home sitting at her computer and went in an ambulance to hospital. Her uterus had ruptured, and the only thing keeping the baby in her uterus was the placenta over the hole that had opened up. Her consultant was at the hospital when she arrived and they rushed her into surgery. She had been very upset at not seeing her two previous daughters born, and so had a camera with her, which her consultant passed to a nurse. The photos that she has of her third daughter being born are very precious to her – they make her feel as though the baby is really hers. Although this birth was much more dangerous than her first, she did not feel traumatised by it as a result of the reassurance the consultant gave her. 
 
She should have been transferred to intensive care (ICU), but there were no beds, so she was transferred onto the labour ward. She felt OK for the next couple of days, but her stomach was very bloated. On the Friday she developed a lot of pain from the stomach, but felt that the staff did not listen to her or take her seriously for some time. Finally doctors gave her an internal examination and on the Saturday morning they took her down forsurgery and discovered that her colon was blocked and had turned gangrenous (the extremely rare Ogilivie Syndrome). She had surgery to remove the blocked section of gut and was then on the surgical ward which was very difficult as she was separated from her baby. 
 
Her gynaecologist tried to help by arranging for the baby to be brought to her, but she was very worried about her baby getting an infection, so sent her back to the labour ward, where she was cared for by midwives. Even when she was reunited with her baby in the hospital, she wasn’t able to hold her baby because of all the cannulas she had in her arms, which she found very upsetting. She was in hospital for about 3 weeks while her bowel healed. When she got home she found life very difficult. Her older daughters were still very young (3 and 15 months) and there was little support available from family. Her GP was very supportive, and eventually persuaded her to go to a Mother and Baby Unit (40 miles away) for a few weeks to recover. All in all she was away from her family for 6-8 weeks, which had a huge effect on family life. 
 
At the time of the interview, two years on, she still felt the effects of her bowel operation - her digestion was not back to what it was, nor will it ever be. She felt that there has been a lack of ongoing information about how to manage her lifestyle. She also felt that the traumatic birth had had a profound effect on her family, her girls didn’t see their mother for weeks and were anxious about ambulances and hospitals. She and her partner have never talked about it. 
 

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