Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy


Age at interview: 29
Age at diagnosis: 24

Brief outline: When 32 weeks through her third pregnancy Sarah was diagnosed with placenta praevia and was in hospital for the remainder of her pregnancy. During a planned caesarean Sarah haemorrhaged and doctors performed a hysterectomy to save her life. Her baby was taken into special care but was soon well.

Background: Sarah is a photographic processor. She lives with her husband and three daughters. White British.

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Sarah was pregnant with her third child. Her first two pregnancies had ended with caesarian sections. Her first daughter was born by emergency c-section, the second a planned c-section, 16 months apart. Her third daughter was due 19 months after her second.
When she was 32 weeks pregnant, Sarah started to bleed and she went into hospital for a check. Investigations showed that she had the most serious type of placenta praevia a grade 4 (the placenta completely covers the cervix/birth canal), and she was kept in hospital for the last weeks of her pregnancy. Although she lived very close to the hospital and was allowed out for occasional short visits, she was separated from her two young daughters for over 6 weeks. Her stay in hospital was difficult. She continued to bleed every 2-3 days and lost a lot of blood, before the doctors felt that the baby was strong enough to be delivered.
She was told she was going to have to have a general anaesthetic for the delivery, which worried her, and she wrote letters to her family saying goodbye. The caesarean went badly, the baby had to go to special care, and Sarah haemorrhaged. The doctors had to perform a hysterectomy to stop the bleeding. She was then taken to intensive care, where she stayed for several days.
Her daughter was fine, and is now 5. Since her discharge home Sarah has suffered multiple complications from the trauma of the birth, and the hysterectomy. Physically she has had problems with her back, bladder and has bowel adhesions that will require surgery to resolve. Emotionally she found the hysterectomy, the loss of the possibility of any more children, and the impact that it has had on her feelings as a woman, very hard to come to terms with. She also found it hard being separated from her baby in the first few days, and not being able to breastfeed. Neither she nor her husband have been offered any counseling or received any support. The whole family has been profoundly affected by the psychological and physical effect of the traumatic birth. For a long time, neither of them were able to work, and Sarah’s husband suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. 


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