Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Rachel

Female
Age at interview: 43
Age at diagnosis: 32

Brief outline: Rachel was pregnant with her second child. She noticed that the baby had stopped moving and when she got to hospital was told he had died. After delivery she had a haemorrhage and developed amniotic fluid embolism. Doctors had to perform a hysterectomy to save her life.

Background: Rachel is a psychologist, married with three children.

Audio & video

Rachel was expecting her second son. She had developed pre-eclampsia with her first pregnancy, and her first son had been very big. She had a miscarriage at three months and then got pregnant again. During her second pregnancy she had no symptoms. Although one blood reading showed high sugar levels in her blood at eight months, the next was normal so her gestational diabetes was missed. 
 
At 39 weeks she started to feel unwell and noticed that she had not felt the baby moving so decided to go into hospital. She went on her own as her husband was looking after their four year old son at home. On arrival at hospital she was told that the baby was dead. She was induced and delivered the baby 48 hours later. As soon as he was born she was able to hold her son briefly, but then noticed a violent gush of blood. Her last words to her husband were a cry for help, she thought she was dying.
 
One of the main arteries feeding into her uterus had ruptured and doctors struggled to stop it bleeding. She also developed amniotic fluid embolism, 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. She was unconscious while they performed a total of four operations. The consultant gynaecologist called in a team from another hospital. They used an innovative whole torso x-ray technique to locate the ruptured artery so they could stem it flow. They also had to perform a hysterectomy. 
 
Rachel woke up after twelve days in a coma in intensive care to face the death of her son, and the loss of her fertility. She was devastated. She left hospital after a couple of weeks but was soon back in with an infection. But she was determined to get strong quickly and was back at work after four months and took up running. She ran her first 10 km race just nine months later and has since done several marathons. She and her husband were offered therapy and bereavement counseling which was helpful to a point. Three years after the death of her son, they successfully adopted twin girls. She has changed career and is now finishing her training to be a psychologist. 
 

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