Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy


Age at interview: 38
Age at diagnosis: 36

Brief outline: Sophie was pregnant with her second daughter. During the pregnancy she developed a pulmonary embolism. Between three and four weeks after the birth, she had a haemorrhage, due to retained placental products.

Background: Sophieis a business, performance and intelligence officer for a county council. She is married with two daughters. White British.

Audio & video

Sophie’s first pregnancy had been difficult. She had had pain which was diagnosed as a dermoid cyst, which needed to be removed in early pregnancy. She had extended morning sickness and the birth was rough. However her first daughter was born healthy. When she fell pregnant with her second daughter, she also had morning sickness. When she got to 38 weeks she noticed that her leg was swollen and painful to walk on. She was prescribed Clexane (enoxaparin) but a scan didn’t show up anything. She went past her due date and was taken in to hospital to be induced. It was a difficult labour, and her daughter had shoulder dystocia, which was very painful as she was only on gas and air. She suffered some blood loss and felt very weak. 
Sophie stayed in hospital for five days. During her stay she developed a sharp pain in her shoulder. Whilst in hospital a CT scan revealed that she had a pulmonary embolism (PE) on her lung. She was already on Clexane, and was given heparin injections to administer twice a day, which were very painful, and later moved on to warfarin. She was on the warfarin for 6 months, and 18 months on, still feels slight pain and swelling in her leg. She was discharged home to look after her newborn, toddler and husband, but felt unwell, as if she was an “air-crash survivor”. She had odd bleeding, which the midwives were watching, but it was not thought to be abnormal. 
However three and a half weeks after the birth she started to bleed heavily at home and called an ambulance to take her to hospital. Once in hospital, doctors still struggled to find anything wrong with her, but kept her in for monitoring. Shortly afterwards, she had a haemorrhage (PPH), while in hospital – she lost 2 ½ litres of blood and had a general anaesthetic while they stabilised her and gave her a blood transfusion. The obstetrician said the PPH was due to a small section of retained placenta, possibly exacerbated by being on blood thinning medication. She was discharged home after a week to go home to look after her daughters, but still felt very weak and drained. 
Sophie and her husband (Tom - Interview43) did not have family or friends nearby who could help, and felt they did not have enough support. They spoke to their GP, community health visitor and midwives, and eventually found some help one morning a week through Homestart, so that Sophie could go to the hospital for her weekly blood tests without taking the girls. But they felt very unsupported. Her husband had five weeks off work in addition to his paternity leave, and felt under a great deal of stress – about six months later he had a nervous breakdown. He had some counselling privately, which he found very helpful and now feels that he is on the mend.


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