Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Paula

Female
Age at interview: 49
Age at diagnosis: 46

Brief outline: Paula was expecting her first child. She developed Amniotic Fluid Embolism after the birth of her daughter. Both mother and baby are fine.

Background: Paula is a university lecturer, living with her partner. They have one daughter.

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Paula was expecting her first child. She was aware that as she was an older mother, doctors were concerned to monitor her blood pressure closely throughout her pregnancy. But she had a good healthy pregnancy. She went in to labour when her daughter was 12 days overdue. She and her partner went to hospital on the Monday evening, and it was a long labour. Her daughter was not born until Wednesday morning, with forceps. She had had an epidural so found pushing hard to feel, and was exhausted when the baby finally came. Her baby was fine, but soon after she was born, she felt that there was someone pressing on her chest, she couldn’t breathe. She heard one of the medical staff mention something about ‘too much bleeding’ and then they sedated her. When awake she discovered she had had amniotic fluid embolism (AFE), a very rare complication of pregnancy in which amniotic fluid, fetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the womb and triggers an allergic reaction, and had been haemorrhaging. 
 
Paula was next aware that she was coming round in ITU. She was groggy and didn’t really know where she was, and wanted to see her baby. Doctors came to explain to her what had happened, but it was not possible for her to see her baby, who was being cared for in special care and by her partner. After a couple of days, when she had stabilised, they managed to transfer her to a room in the maternity wing so she could be with her baby. She was grateful for this opportunity to see her daughter, but was really too ill to stay there. She needed constant kidney and blood tests to try and establish how she was recovering from the AFE. She was being seen by blood and kidney specialists. After a couple of days she was transferred to a haematology ward for further tests. A consultant fought hard for her to be able to have regular visits from her baby, even though she had been sent home with her father by this stage. After 12 days she was discharged home. She had to go back regularly for blood tests to check that her recovery was progressing.
 
She was very tired, and she and her partner had to cope with the shock of a newborn as well as the serious illness that she had been through. They were shortly due to re-locate, which meant her recovery took longer. She was monitored by her GP, but did not need to revisit the hospital after the first few weeks. She was offered no follow up from the hospital. 
 
In the 3 ½ years since, she has tried counselling twice, once through a children’s centre, and once through the GP. She has found this helpful, but would have liked more sooner, in the first year.
 

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