Placenta Accreta and Haemoragge
I have two beautiful babies but both of their deliveries were hugely traumatic. My first baby was born by emergency caesarean after failure to progress. After the section I had a ‘catastrophic haemorrhage’ and lost all the blood in my body. My husband was called and asked to get back to the hospital as soon as possible as they could not guarantee that I would make it.
Thankfully I did but came round in ITU having just come off a ventilator and thought that my baby had died and my womb had gone. Thankfully neither was true but I was completely confused and in dreadful pain.
My recuperation was long and arduous. My focus became having another baby…..I believed that this would ‘mend’ all the bad that had happened and the pain I felt. I loved my baby immensely but desperately wanted him to have a brother or sister and wanted to prove that I was ‘normal’. That I could have another baby and give birth without drama! I carried terrible guilt for the the upset it had caused my husband and family and wanted in some way to ‘put that right’.
Impact on Relationships.
In addition the trauma had caused a breakdown in relationships with my husbands family due to their failure to accept or understand the huge trauma we had been through. When I returned to work I shut myself off from people and no-longer felt like ‘me’. Some colleagues thought I was being rude or off when in truth I was struggling inside and couldn’t verbalise how I felt. I looked for any excuse to take time off work and felt dreadfully alone. People we believed were friends had fallen by the wayside and all the un-addressed anxiety and emotion we both felt was impacting on our own relationship!
My G.p was very supportive and did her best. She diagnosed PTSD, diagnosed anti depressants and put me on a course of cognitive behavioural therapy with the practice nurse. Truthfully though none of it filled the huge void and pain I felt at nearly dying and not being there for all those first precious moments…..first feed, first nappy, first bath, first time my baby was dressed. I couldn’t breastfeed as my milk never came and when I did go home was on high dosage painkillers and also had nerve damage in my right arm.
Baba No 2!
So…..when a blue line appeared on the pregnancy test for the second time in my life I felt a mixture of joy and terror! We had ‘tried’ for nearly a year and had made an informed decision to do this having taken advice from our G.P, my consultant, a gynaecologist and long emotional chats as husband and wife.
My husband was understandably very fearful and when I look back I acknowledge that I was the one really pushing for a second baby. But the consensus of advice was that this would never happen again, I should be encouraged to try for a natural delivery and hopefully this would ‘redress’ the trauma of our first baby’s arrival.
We excitedly looked forward to our first scan and shared our lovely news with our gorgeous little boy that he would be having a brother or sister it play with very soon! My first scan was nerve wracking for me as I kept telling myself that something would go wrong. I even remember saying to my Mum that I wouldn’t come out if this pregnancy with my womb. She had got really angry with me but I had this constant nervous, nagging doubt that something would go wrong again.
At 18 wks I had a bleed and was petrified that I was losing my precious baby. A visit to my G.p the following day after further bleeding diagnosed a suspected infection and I was referred for an emergency scan. My G.P also suspected a low lying placenta. Thankfully my lovely community midwife came to the house that night with a Doppler and picked up my baby’s heartbeat…..causing me to dissolve into tears of relief. A scan the following day showed no sign of a low lying placenta/placenta previa so I was given foul tasting tablets to get rid of any possible infection and we believed all was well.
20 week scan
Again, I was nervous. My sons 20 week scan had shown that he had severer ‘bilateral talipes’, a condition I had never heard of where babies feet turn inwards. The unsympathetic sonographer advised that it may be a more serious condition such as spina bifida and I had left distraught(this was not the case and he has had succesful treatment). But all of this meant that I was very nervous. Thankfully all was well with baby no 2 but there was a problem with me….
Placenta Previa Diagnosis
It transpired that I had in fact got a low-lying placenta. But I couldn’t be straight forward….it was the worst kind which was completely covering the opening of my cervix. I was already consultant led because of the complications of my son’s birth and would now need to be scanned and have regular appointments. At this point I didn’t care…..my baby was ok and that’s all that mattered to me. I really didn’t appreciate the serious nature of the condition.
The news gets steadily worse….
Each appointment we had with our consultant seemed to get more serious and the advice/information we were given increased in severity. My consultant was amazing and whilst I appreciated her absolute candour and honesty, at the time, it felt like my world was caving in. We were advised that if I had any type of bleed, however small, I had to be taken to hospital immediately. We also could not have ‘physical relations'(I sound like my Mum!) because this would cause a bleed.
I could not risk a natural delivery as I would haemorrhage so a caesarean was necessary. The caesarean may have to be conducted under general anaesthetic(gulp) and I would be likely to have another stay in ITU.
……and even worse….
Then at what would be our final appointment (unbeknown to us) my lovely consultant (who by this point was used to my streaming tears) advised that she was concerned that I may have an even more serious condition called ‘placenta accreta’. This is where the placenta attaches itself to the womb or nearest organ and can be fatal to mother.
Whilst holding my hand she explained that it was unlikely that she would know this until I was ‘opened up’ and if this was the case I would have to have a hysterectomy. I felt absolutely blindsided…..distraught and bewildered. Why me…agfain? Why my husband who had already nearly lost me once and our beautiful som?? I was so distraught leaving the office that I could not face going back to work and spent the day in tears. I felt like a walking time bomb…..
However, my wonderful and amazing consultant (I will never stop singing her praises) had an in-depth plan in place. Due to her previous experience with a similar case she would ensure that I could be conscious for the planned caesarean with a detailed plan that included my epidural being inserted and then a catheter being inserted into my groin in radiology to minimise the risk of haemorrhage. She also referred me for an MRI scan to assess if I did have placenta accreta…….unfortunately the scan did not determine this.
The worst night of my life
My caesarean was scheduled for 27th September (my due date was 7th October), but at 34 weeks I started to feel unwell. I was admitted to hospital with suspected gastroenteritis but after a scan to check for a clot in front of my placenta was thankfully discharged. However, within hours of this the cramping pain returned and I went for a bath to ease the pain. Feeling something come away from me I lay there for what felt like forever feeling terrified. I eventually sat up to see the bath was full of blood and screamed for my husband….
I have never felt so scared and truly thought that I was losing or had lost my precious baby. I screamed for him to call an ambulance and the rest is a bit of a blur. I was 999’d to hospital and remember the paramedic asking me when I had last felt the baby move…….I couldn’t remember. My husband looked petrified and was crying and our poor son had been taken off to nanny’s house. I was monitored through the night and thankfully baby’s heartbeat was strong. I assumed that I would now be kept in hospital until delivery and spent a fitful night lying next to my hubby trying to sleep.
Friday 3rd September
Still thinking I would be kept in and monitored I started to panic when the midwife came in and told me what a scare I had given them the previous night. She explained that they had tried to assemble the ‘team’ needed for delivery and a decision would have to be made on whether or not baby should be delivered today. What?! I wasn’t ready……but when I went to the toilet and lost another clot of blood I really started to panic. Within minutes my consultant arrived and whilst holding my hand (again!) explained that baby had to be delivered today. The plan she had so carefully prepared would be put in place and if there was anyone I wanted to see they should get to the hospital immediately………..
Feeling utterly numb and desperate to see my precious son I signed consent forms, took off my jewellery and nail varnish and had the ITU consultant and consultant anaesthetist (two more amazing people) come and visit me to explain the ‘procedure’. Things then started to move at a very fast pace and my caesarean ‘slot’ was brought forward. I felt like I was on ‘death row’ and honestly did not know whether my baby and I would come through this. I have honestly never felt so scared in my entire life and almost felt like I was watching myself from the outside whilst this drama unfolded.
My poor wonderful Mum arrived on 2 wheels at the hospital just as I was being wheeled down to radiology so that I could kiss my precious son goodbye. My poor Mum, Dad and sister looked bewildered and in shock. My twin sister was stuck hundreds of miles away and was distraught. I remember physically shaking with fear in theatre surrounded by a team of 20+ people. Thank god my husband was by my side throughout offering reassurance and comfort whilst a lovely nurse called Joy held my hand. After what seemed like an age the section started…..I honestly believed my baby would be ‘damaged’ in some way and could only focus on my husbands face I was so terrified. Then we heard a cry and our beautiful baby girl was lifted into the air………….4lb 14oz and perfect. She was whisked off and after being advised that it was placenta accreta I was put under…..
Completely familiar as I have been here before I come round in ITU ‘elated’ (my hubby’s description). I was still ventilated which was very strange but was thrilled to be alive and to know that my gorgeous baby was safe. I knew I’d had a hysterectomy but at that stage didn’t care and just wanted to see my husband, my Mum and my babies.
So, initially I was happy…..caught up in the euphoria of me and my family! I felt like the luckiest girl in the world and it stayed like that for a good few months. Then I guess reality hit…..I would never ever carry another baby, my ‘womanhood’ had gone and I had nearly died for the second time in 3 years.
It started with a routine check up and filling at the dentist where I had my first flashback. I was back in the operating theatre…..my heart was pounding…..I felt terrified. I was biting on the dentists drill (which scared him) and was completely unaware. I started to get a constant feeling of dread……that something bad was going to happen to me……to my family……to my babies. My self-esteem (which has never been great) hit rock bottom and I felt ugly and not a real woman. I was not sleeping well and feeling anxious for most of the time. I was already taking anti depressants…..a decision I had made as a precaution based on my previous experience so why was I still feeling like this?
Yet again my wonderful consultant stepped in. At my discharge appointment she had advised me of a counselling service at the hospital where I had given birth. This transpired to be so much more…..a true lifeline to me and my husband. I met with the perinatal nurse who ran the programme….an emotional 3 hour meeting in which I went through both trauma’s. She made sense of all my feelings and seemed to fit the jigsaw together.
Support and Help.
She explained that I was suffering from ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’ and needed appropriate medication to treat this. She would refer me to the consultant psychologist and consultant psychiatrist at the hospital and I would receive appropriate and specialised care. Wow……immediately I felt like finally I was on the right path.
So where am I now?
Well it’s nearly 6 months on from that initial meeting and that wonderful lady I met was true to her word. I have had regular counselling sessions with my psychiatrist. I have had a formal diagnosis of PTSD and have been given the right drugs to treat it. I meet with a wonderful support group every week where we can talk openly, honestly and support each other. All of us have had trauma at birth. Life isn’t perfect, I had a panic attack this week but the good days are outweighing the bad.
Without sounding cheesy my big hope now is that I can help other women who’ve been where I’ve been…..terrified, scared, hurting and feeling alone. I hope this blog can do that!