Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Rebecca

Female
Age at interview: 42
Age at diagnosis: 40

Brief outline: Rebecca was pregnant with her third child. She had a planned caesarean section, and placenta percreta. She developed a blood clot in her leg and now has foot palsy.

Background: Rebecca is a housewife married with three young children.

Audio & video

Rebecca had two previous pregnancies, both of which resulted in a caesarean section. So when she was pregnant with her third child, doctors told her that she would need a caesarean section also. Late scans showed that she had placenta praevia, and that the position indicated that she should have a radiologist present. When one was not available at her local hospital, she was sent to an inner London hospital. When she went in to surgery she expected to have a straightforward caesarean but was told the night before that it would need to be under general anaesthetic. The day before the caesarean was scheduled, she was told that all was fine. There were no signs the placenta was attached to the old caesarean scar. She was told a normal epidural caesarean could proceed. The operation went on as standard practice, and only when they opened her up did they discover the placenta percreta. Her husband was rushed from the operating theatre. He was left alone without knowing what had happened for several hours. 
 
Their daughter was born and did not breathe for 10 minutes, and was sent to neo natal intensive care (NICU). She is now fine. In addition to the placenta percreta, which caused complications with her bladder, Rebecca also developed a serious blood clot (deep vein thrombosis) in her leg which required four operations. She was in intensive care (ICU) and high dependency for several days, and in hospital for two weeks in total. 
 
She found the ICU very frightening, and being separated from her newborn very difficult to bear. She was transferred to a post-natal ward (for post-caesarean women) where she was able to be with her baby. But she was not really in a fit state to manage looking after her newborn because of the caesarean scar and leg surgery. She was finally transferred to a single room, where staff were again not very supportive or able to help her look after her baby. She was discharged at midnight, with a lot of medications, blood and urine drains, very immobile. Her recovery at home was very difficult as she was not able to walk, lift etc. Her husband had to take significant amounts of time off work, and her mother lived with them for 2 months. 
 
Two years on, she had palsy in her foot, and needs a brace on her leg to be able to walk. She no longer drives, so her husband has to do a lot of the ferrying of the children. She will only walk. 
 
Rebecca was offered no counseling, which she thinks could have helped her recover her mental strength more quickly. Her follow up has been with lots of different specialists, with no one in overall charge. She feels that there was very little information available to help her understand what had happened to her. Her experience has had a significant effect on family life and has curtailed her independence and dignity.
 

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